Samaria was born 05/13/2009 during a rain and thunderstorm in Rochester, MN. When she was born, she was not breathing, At first they lay her on me to get her started and there was no response. The nurses then whisked her away to work on her. I remember telling my husband to grab the camera and get pictures, in case she wouldn’t come back. About an hour later, the storm stopped and cleared outside, while a nurse came in with our miracle. Samaria had been resuscitated and administered multiple injectable medicines. We didn’t care about the details at the time, we cared that we had our baby alive and well at that moment!
She was a happy baby and hit her milestones early. Everyone gravitated to Samaria, she is quite charismatic! In her early years of life, she had stitches, multiple ear infections, upper respiratory infections, “normal” sicknesses and injuries for kiddos, we thought. We brought her into E.R. at 9 months concerned about possible spasms/seizures, although we knew nothing about seizures at that point, something had been off. The staff there showed very little concern and stated if we see something we can prove to them, then they can refer us to neurology. So, at that time, nothing was made of what we had been “overreacting” to and we were reassured everything was fine.
Everything changed then night of 04/03/2012. Joe and I had put our 2 older sons to bed, at that time they were ages 10 and 9. Samaria was 2 and we were 7 months pregnant with our youngest daughter. It was a little bit before 10pm. Samaria was asleep in our bed. We were getting ready to watch a movie in our room. Samaria starts making noises in her sleep, then vomited; continuously. We are confused and distraught by this. I ran a bath and gently place her in. I ran water over her and wash her hair to remove the vomit. She doesn’t fight me, scream or have any kind of reflex to it, which was weird, she always hated me touching her head and washing her hair. I wrap her up in a place her back on our, cleaned and newly sheeted bed. I realized then we need to call 911. Then what seemed like hours, but only 2-3 minutes of calling, the fire department, then police, then paramedics showed up and we had 10 first responders in our room. From there she was put in the ambulance and they continued to work on her in the back for up to 30 minutes, while I sat in the front of the ambulance, Joe watched from Samaria’s bedroom window and the boys stayed asleep. We started going to the hospital without sirens, they had minimal information for me. Then half way there lights and sirens went on and everything shifted.
In the emergency room I am asked so many questions to where my head was spinning. This is the first time I heard seizure, no, multiple seizures-status epilepticus. They kept insisting she had ingested something. I kept stating everything is up and locked due to child care license regulations in my home business. They had started an IV in her leg in the ambulance. She had been administered Ativan 3 separate times to stop/interrupt her seizing. She was also given Phenobarbital and Fosphenytoin and Ceftriaxone, on and on with those big medicinal words. I had been asked to sign a waiver giving permission to administer. This is because if they had give it to her, it would stop the seizure, which had now gone into 6 minutes of tonic clonic state, but also could stop her heart and cause more brain damage and possible death. Ok, are you kidding me?! Well, I signed it. The crash cart is brought in. I go right outside the door, fall to my knees and pray harder than I ever had in my whole life. A nurse bends down and pulls me up, walks me into the room and the doctor explains that Samaria is stable. The seizures have stopped, she is breathing on her own, after resuscitation and will be transferred to PICU. At this point I am so grateful my baby is alive, again! The doctor then explained that though she is stable right now, we do not know the extent of her brain damage and/or when she will wake up, or if she could be in a coma state. At that time all I heard was stable=alive!
Once we are admitted and moved to PICU, I was not going anywhere but right next to her in her crib like bed. I lay next to our precious lamb all night. At 6am, Samaria rolls over, opens her eyes, sits up and says “Mommy, can we go home now?!” We stayed at Mayo-St. Mary’s Campus Hospital, for a few days and did so many tests! This is when she was officially diagnosed with multiple Epilepsy types, as well as PMG-polymicrogyria-a rare brain malformation, focal cortical dysplasia, Sylvain Fissure, and abnormal cerebral white matter of the brain. She was able to receive the VNS implant, after failing more than 7 medications in less then a year to control her multiple seizures, giving her Intractable Epilepsy. In May 2013, after 2 months of the VNS implant, Samaria was rushed to the ER once again. This now gave her a diagnosis of Multifocal Leukoencephathy and FIRES.
Needless to say, the fact that she is with us, alive, and walking and talking and overall just being, is beyond miraculous!! Yes we have our struggles, yes we fall short, no we never lose hope, humility or gratitude. Since 2012, there has been a multitude of evaluations and diagnoses. The list goes on, has changed, can change and is never ending! Samaria has given me so much more in this life that anything else. Because of her, we have opened our eyes and hearts to the struggles of our 3 other kids. We have become a very close, open, honest, communicative family that is unbreakable.
As of today, Samaria is reading at her current grade level, which has been the most important to her, academically. She also has initiated play with peers for the first time last August. She is sharing her thoughts and feelings and setting personal boundaries. She also tied her shoe for the first time! These milestones may seem little; to us, it is like she graduated valedictorian of her high school class!! What is even better, she is helping other kids new to Epilepsy and spreading awareness in her community. Every breath she takes, every morning she wakes up, is proof of a living, walking miracle. I have no idea how we became so blessed to have this Angelic Warrior as our daughter, and I would not change anything about it!
Samaria has been granted the opportunity to receive a Service dog through 4 Paws for Ability! We are thrilled and honored! In part of being a client with them, we need to raise some funds to cover the cost of her dog. The dog will be trained specific to Samaria and her needs. This will include seizure scent response; as her chemical framework changes during a seizure, the dog will pick up on the scent change and alert the proper people as well as obtain her magnet to set off the signals in her VNS implant. The dog will also keep her and the area around her safe in response to a seizure. Along with the seizure response, her service dog will aid as a comfort and guide for her behavior, mood stability, anxiety, and staying safe within our community and home. Her dog will also provide her with balance and coordination assistance and deep pressure comfort.
It costs at least $40,000 to specially train a dog for Samaria. Families cover only a portion of that cost, a fee of $17,000. We are fundraising to help cover the fee required to provide Samaria with a life-changing service dog. Donations in support of Samaria should be made directly to 4 Paws for Ability – be sure to write Samaria Gerads on the memo line. Mail checks to:
4 Paws for Ability
In Honor of Samaria Gerads
253 Dayton Ave.
Xenia, Ohio, 45385.
If you wish to make an online donation, the website is www.4pawsforability.org/donate-now . Include Samaria’s name in the “instructions to merchant” through PayPal. You may also call to make a credit card donation over the phone at (937) 374-0385 – Monday thru Friday 9AM to 4PM EST. Finally, donations can also be made on Samaria’s person FirstGiving page: https://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/melissa-gerads/samaria
Thank you for your support!