Commentary: Finding inspiration at home

July 27, 2013 

My favorite part of sports writing isn’t the games or the stats or the behind the scenes access I get with my press pass, it is getting to meet and write about inspiring people.

Everyone has a story, and I treasure getting to share them with the public.

Many of these stories are about obstacles youngsters must overcome to compete.

From Mattawa’s Maribel Torres, who was born with one hand, yet played two varsity sports in high school, to Jubilee Christian’s Stirling Eastman, who shook off a life of partying to prepare to graduate and lead his team to the state football semifinals, to Wenatchee’s Isaiah Brandt-Sims, who was born prematurely with a host of health problems before becoming one of the top high school sprinters in the country.

These are the kinds of stories I love.

A story that’s resonated with me for the last three weeks involves my newborn daughter who overcame a potentially life-threatening disease and in the process spawned hundreds of Facebook comments wishing her well, countless prayers and untold medical debt for her two worried parents.

Catarina was born June 30 at Kennewick General Hospital, a seemingly healthy baby at 7 pounds, 8 ounces. My wife Veronica and I took her home and for six days life was as normal as having a new baby can be.

Then we noticed lesions on Cat’s chest and back. We went to the pediatrician the next day and quickly were admitted into Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland. After a slew of tests, our baby was diagnosed with herpes simplex virus 1, a blood infection that can be fatal and cause significant neurological damage.

The disease is extremely common in adults, with nearly 65 percent of Americans having it. While cold sores can be bothersome to adults, they don’t cause lasting damage.

For a newborn, who doesn’t have much of an immune system, this virus can wreak havoc.

It is also extremely rare in babies — Seattle Children’s Hospital has had just 140 cases since 1980 several doctors told us — which made the quick diagnosis from Dr. Shakti K. Matta, who owns Pediatrics for You in Kennewick, extremely important. He had Catarina at Kadlec receiving antibiotics within three hours of seeing her.

We were scheduled to be at Kadlec for two weeks, but problems with my daughter’s IVs — and her inability to keep them in her veins — required a life flight to Seattle Children’s Hospital.

We spent eight long days at one of the best hospitals to be at if your child is sick.

We were helped by a team of doctors led by Dr. Ann J. Melvin, associate professor of infectious disease, and Kathleen Mohan, a nurse practitioner specializing in infectious diseases, and a team of nurses led by Chelsea, Ashli and Leslie. They tirelessly monitored my daughter’s health and helped eliminate the virus from her blood.

We were given meals by a disparate group of journalists, including Steve Straehley of The Press-Enterprise in Riverside, Calif., Aimee Foster, a freelancer in Florida, Tom Jensen, editor of SPEED, an online motorsports publication, and Kai-Huei Yau, a Tri-City Herald photographer.

The Seattle First Church of the Nazarene pastoral staff, their families and my brother Mick and sister-in-law Kim came and sat with my daughter each day to give my wife and I mental breaks from the stress of our hospital vigil.

And of course my co-workers at the Herald stepped up to help cover me at work, take care of my dog, collect my mail and hook me up with Sounders tickets.

For all of that I offer a thank you.

Catarina is now at home and doing well. The infection is gone from her blood and a six-month round of antibiotics hopefully will keep it that way.

Eventually, she will grow old enough to be like millions of others who only have to worry about cold sores.

And when that day comes, she’ll have one heck of a story to tell.

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