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Saturday, September 25, 2010

My Very Belated Thoughts on Swim for Melissa

As I type this, I'm sitting under my pergola as the rain falls. I love the sound it makes. It's early Saturday morning and Lily Baker is snuggled up to me with her head on my shoulder.

September is almost over and I still haven't posted about Swim for Melissa. It's not that I'm being a big slacker or procrastinator (although sometimes I am). It's just that I have been completely overwhelmed about how to convey my thoughts about this year's event.

As most of you know, Ann Catherine swam for the first time this year. She formed a team of cousins and friends called "Melissa's Miracles." They did great! They raised $15,900 and came in second place. Ann Catherine raised $6,575 on her own, and was the top overall fundraiser in the Swimmer category. We are so proud of her!

Overall we raised $165,000 through the 5th annual Swim for Melissa. We will use that money to purchase a Giraffe OmniBed, Giraffe Incubators and a Family Support program and liaison to serve parents and families during their infant’s stay in our NICU. I'm so excited about that!

A very sincere thanks to all of you who played a part in this event - whether your children swam or you donated money (or both!). We could not do this without your support and we are so very grateful for it!

To say that I was emotional as I watched Ann Catherine swim would be an incredible understatement. Several times I tried to blog about it, but I just couldn't find the words to convey my emotions. Recently I wrote an article about the experience for Huntsville Hospital's Source magazine. I thought I would just place that article here. It really sums up my feelings from that event.

Swim for Melissa - In My Own Words
By Amy George, Melissa's Mother

We knew the day was coming. We had looked forward to it for four years. We knew it would be emotional for our family.

Even so, we weren’t quite prepared for the way we would feel when it finally happened.

Since 2006 my husband, Chris, and I had watched as hundreds of children swam laps in the Hampton Cove Pool to raise money for the Melissa George Neonatal Memorial Fund at Huntsville Hospital Foundation.

And on this 5th anniversary of Swim for Melissa, our daughter – Melissa’s twin – got her turn. She formed a team of friends and family called “Melissa’s Miracles” and she swam in memory of her sister.

Ann Catherine knew why she was doing it. “To help the babies in the NICU,” she would tell anyone who asked. We’ve never shied away from her own NICU stay. She knows she was born early. She has heard the stories, seen the pictures and watched the videos. It is a very real part of her life and we want her to know about it.

But there are things she can’t understand. That “born early” means, in her case, 14 weeks early. That she only weighed one pound, fifteen ounces. That her twin sister, Melissa Suzanne, was even smaller weighing only one pound, nine ounces. That for 68 long days we visited her in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Huntsville Hospital for Women & Children and sat by her bedside as doctors and nurses took care of her. And that as we walked into that NICU every day, we carried the loss of her sister with us.

She knows about Melissa. We’re honest about that, too. “She’s our angel,” Ann Catherine says when asked about her twin. And she knows that Melissa’s Fund helps those precious babies like her and Melissa.

But what she doesn’t know, what she couldn’t know, is what it meant to her daddy and me to watch her swim those laps at this year’s event. With her inner tube around her, she jumped in and began to swim. As I watched with our three-year-old daughter, Lily Baker, in my lap, I began to cry. I cried about how far Ann Catherine had come in five years. How could this be the same child who was hooked up to monitors and a ventilator helping her take each breath? How could this be the same child who was so frail I could count her ribs the day she was born? How could those arms that were splashing around in the water be the same arms that once lay still as her daddy’s wedding band dangled around them?

Then I cried for Melissa. I cried that she couldn’t be here to do this, too. I cried that she would never have the chance to splash around in this pool. I cried that this wonderful fundraiser that brings hope to so many babies had to come from so much pain. And I cried because I missed her.

Then I realized something. She was here. Because on this day, this 5th annual Swim for Melissa, that’s just what Ann Catherine was doing. She was swimming for Melissa. If Melissa couldn’t be there to do it, then Ann Catherine would do it for her. For every lap she swam, it was as if Melissa was swimming right by her side. I always feel Melissa’s spirit at this event, but never more so than this year.

That’s when my tears of pain turned into tears of joy. Ann Catherine swam for Melissa. And I know in my heart, that Melissa was cheering her on.


Sherrill said...

How bittersweet that without the storms, we (and therefore, our children) might take for granted the blessings of life and never have the heart to help others. . .as I experienced Swim for Melissa firsthand this year, and watched our sweet Abby swim for the first time (for her sisters - one who got to come home and one who is now our angel)it was priceless to see our little girls with their giving little hearts, learning so early in life about giving back, about God's blessings, about unselfishness, about compassion, about Godly love. My heart still hurts when I remember the pain, but what an abundance of blessings He has given that have turned the pain into beautiful scars. Thank you again for all you do - and for opening your hearts to help others. :-) Continue to follow God's "nudges" - He has a plan.

Whitney said...

No matter how belated, I am so glad you posted this. It brought tears to me eyes. Every single time I see a rainbow, I think of you and your sweet family.