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To the people who believed in my daughter, this is what you taught me

To: The people who believed in my daughter

From: Lauren Cunningham (As told to Lauren Brill)

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To those who believed in my daughter,

Before you met my daughter, Keira, better known as KiKi, we started describing her as sugar and spice or sweet and spicy. She’d be wearing a dress one minute and then the next minute, she’d be playing sports with her two older brothers.

Kiki enjoyed gymnastics and cheerleading.  She loved Great Wolf Lodge and Disney World or anywhere with rides. Knowing that I don’t like rides, she once took me on the scariest slide at Great Wolf. My husband recorded us on his phone. You can hear her teasing me. Sarcastically, as we started going down, she said, “Sorry, mom,” as she cracked up.

With no warning at all, three years ago, when Kiki was eight years old, our lives changed completely.

We were having a barbecue after spending the day at the Statue of Liberty. After dinner, she came up to me. She told me she had a headache and she was going to lie down.  I followed her inside, gave her children’s Motrin and put a wet cloth on her head.

Within ten seconds, she started screaming, “My head hurts! My head hurts! Something is wrong!  Something is wrong!”

My husband came running in from outside. As soon as he got into the room, she passed out.

We rushed her to the hospital, where we learned our little sweet and spicy girl had a brain bleed/aneurysm because of a condition called AVM (arteriovenous malformation), which is a malformation of a vein in your brain.

We started describing her as sugar and spice or sweet and spicy. She’d be wearing a dress one minute and then the next minute, she’d be playing sports with her two older brothers.

That day was when we heard what I call “The List of You’ll Nevers.”

Several doctors told us she will not have any quality of life. She may never be aware of her surroundings. She may never walk. She may never talk. She may never eat on her own. She may never use the bathroom on her own.

Some doctors didn’t think there would be much life left for her.

But not you, Dr. Mohan. You believed in Kiki.

Kiki with Dr. Mohan, who saved her life.

We found out later that you told all the negative people, “Let’s see if she has brain activity.”

She did. You proceeded to do the surgery on her when other people thought you were crazy. You saved my daughter’s life. To this day, you cheer her on, as you believe college is not out of the question.

After that surgery, Kiki was in a coma for a month, which saved her brain and allowed doctors to wean her off of drugs. Then, she was transferred to Blythedale, a children’s hospital and rehabilitation center. That’s where we met you, Mama Jean. You’ve seen millions of miracles throughout your 30 years as a nurse at Blythedale. You believe in all children with traumatic brain injuries.  You would always tell Kiki that we are going to have a pizza party, even though she had a trach. You told her that it would happen and gave her the vision to look forward to as she worked towards healing.

Once we got home, Melissa, you became Kiki’s nurse. The first time you saw Kiki, you said you could see her spirit. You have a daughter the same age as Kiki, who is also interested in gymnastics and cheerleading. You encouraged Kiki to cheerlead from a wheelchair with your daughter at our local church, which she loved.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]

There are so many more of you that have helped Kiki including her physical therapist, occupational therapist, speech therapist, feeding therapist, followers on her Facebook page and older brothers. Our family knows that it is because of all of your hard work and support that Kiki has come such a long way.

Kiki and Melissa.

Only three years since the day we almost lost Kiki, she can do many of the activities we were initially told she would never be able to do again. She can breathe on her own. She can eat on her own. And not surprisingly, she loves pizza. She is starting to talk again. While she can’t yet walk on her own, she is getting stronger, as she now can use a walker.

So badly,  she wants to be able to do flips and cartwheels again. I don’t know if that will happen, but recently, Kiki gave me some added hope.

Kiki follows a YouTuber that does pranks. She saw her do a prank where she replaced the creme in the Oreo with toothpaste. With the help of my husband, she decided to prank my oldest son, who is 15. Neither my husband nor Kiki filled me in, so I had no idea what was going on.  She set it up so her and my middle son were casually eating Oreos. It looked very natural. Then, my oldest came in and took a bite of the Oreo that Kiki left for him. When he bit into it and realized it was toothpaste, Kiki belted out that same laugh I heard when she took me on the slide at Great Wolf Lodge a few years ago.

At that moment, I realized what you all believed and knew all along. Not only is my sweet and spicy daughter still here, she never left.

Thank you all so very much. I wish I had more words for you all, but how do you thank the people that saved your daughter’s life?

None of us may know exactly what the future holds, but what all of you and  Kiki have taught me is to never accept never.

You all are angels on earth.

Thank you,

Lauren Cunningham (Kiki's Mom)
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