For our annual Mother’s Day issue, we learn about one local woman who’s turning her tragedy into triumph. Read on for her inspiring story (grab the tissues!). It’s one that reminds us to go hug our loved ones and find strength at our weakest points.
There’s a lot to do before welcoming the arrival of your little one. From getting the nursery ready to all the doctor appointments, you want to know that you’re doing everything right to give your baby the healthiest entrance possible.
One of the things we don’t intend to happen is for tragedy to strike. But that’s what happened for one local woman.
When Jodi Storer gave birth to her daughter Kai, she didn’t think that it would all come to an end within a few short months. Kai was born at 24 weeks with tracheoesophageal fistula and a hole in her heart. “It wasn’t genetic, just a fluke thing,” explains Storer.
The fistula meant that her esophagus wasn’t attached, and often when this happens, there’s also a hole in the heart, which leads to further issues for the baby.
The next two-and-a-half months took place at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, where Storer waited alongside Kai hoping for a miracle. “We were a team, and we did everything together,” she says. “She had a hole in her heart but we filled that little hole with so much love that she didn’t even know.”
When Storer found out that Kai wasn’t going to make it, she was given a private room where she could hold her baby until she was no longer in pain. “I didn’t invited any family or friends to be with us,” she says. “Instead of any sadness, I wanted her last memories here on earth to be filled with love and happiness.”
Like all babies, Kai based her emotions on those of her mother, even at that very young age, so Storer spoke to her just like any mother would do with her newborn baby.
“I told her all the things you would want your daughter to know in a lifetime,” she says. “Even though she was gradually getting weaker and eventually passed away by 4 a.m. she was so content in my arms that she was making baby sucking noises even while having trouble keeping her eyes open.”
Storer says Kai taught her more than she could have ever expected in the just the few short months she was here. “The biggest life lesson Kai taught me is that, as a parent, we think about all the stuff. Is the room ready? Do our kids have everything they need? Will they be good at this sport or that activity? But, in reality what they want most is us. Just us spending time with them. Loving them, laughing with them, and cherishing every moment that we have, because in the end that’s all Kai had was my love,” she says.
As one would expect, Storer struggled while Kai was still here and certainly after she was gone. “When I was in Children’s, they encouraged me to take some time, if possible, to take care of myself too,” she says.
In heeding their advice, Storer woke up early every morning before she went to the hospital to workout for a half hour. “During that time, I’d run through all the things I might encounter that day in my mind in order to prepare myself, just in case we had to go through an unexpected procedure,” she says.
Following Kai’s passing, Storer continued to try to exercise, but found that she was struggling. After a doctor told her she was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder due to the tragic situation she’d been dealt, she knew what she had to do – for Kai.
“After she passed, I knew she wouldn’t have been satisfied with me giving up on working out and just laying down because it was hard. Because I didn’t feel like it. She looked to me for strength, there was no way I was going to give up to this challenge. I was going to face it head-on,” says Storer. “Instead of letting this turn into a struggle in my life, I flipped it around and made it a strength. I made it a time where I would connect with her, and I still do to this day. It’s what pushes and inspired me to tell others that they can accomplish anything they put their minds to as well.”
So now, Storer is turning tragedy into triumph and entering a bodybuilding competition. She hopes to compete this fall, following months of cardio and strength training with coaches.
She also started a GoFundMe account to help support her in this competition, as well as to recover the depletion of her savings account and to potentially find a surrogate later on down the road. “It was between $30,000 and $40,000 by the time my medical bills were paid, her medical bills were paid, the service was paid for, the plots, and all other expenses,” she says.
To donate to Storer’s GoFundMe account, click here.