CABARRUS COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - Let me start with good news: This 22-month-old is a Survivor.
Next fact: She was born with Spinal Detethering Syndrome.
Doing the 5, 6, 7 and 11p tonight, but this email came in about Harper Helms from Harrisburg in Cabarrus County, and I'm all caught up in between shows with wanting to share her story. The neurological disorder she has is related to spina bifida, and limited movement in her spinal cord at birth. Harper – whose father is an officer with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department – was lucky. Hers was found early.
"MRI's showed these cyst-like mases in her spine," said mom Clara Isbell. "We knew our little girl had these cysts, but it wasn't until January of this year where we had a formal name for it. Symptoms kept getting worse and we decided to have a surgery this past May."
The surgery was exactly what the Syndrome name suggests: a neurosurgeon went in and "tethered" Harper's spinal cord.
"He removed the top layer of her bone, and put it back together with a rod," Clara said. "Then they sewed her back up. That cleaned out the cysts and made the symptoms go away."
It should've been a relatively simple procedure, but Clara says Harper had a spinal fluid leak. (The neurosurgeon told her that had never happened before.) At first it was a leak from her incision, but after four days Clara describes it as "gushing." Harper was rushed back to Levine Children's PICU, where she stayed a week.
"There was a time we weren't sure she'd make it," Clara said. "It was horrible. She was draining double the amount of spinal fluid an adult should drain. But she eventually came around and if you saw her today you wouldn't know she was near death a couple months ago. It's amazing."
I talked with Crystal over the phone after getting her email, and she laughed when she said the next part.
"She's one spoiled little girl. We basically live every day like it's Christmas. It's so hard not to after seeing all she went through. She's a joy and a big ball of energy."
Now…. on top of all that…. Clara's husband… CMPD Officer Roger Helms… has also been going through surgeries the whole time Harper has been sick.
Officer Helms hurt his shoulder in June 2017 while trying to arrest someone on a call. He has had four surgeries since, one just days before Harper's. He's on light duty now and Clara says the department has rallied around them both.
"My baby is a miracle," said Clara. "We won't fully know all side effects until she's older, but we appreciate the support from everyone."
No matter how many #MollysKids we have, it's always an incredible thing to see an email from a mother showing off her beautiful child, listing a long name of a new illness we've never heard of, calmly talking through the impact it has on their family every single day.
**Editor's note: This is about one of #MollysKids, children WBTV Anchor Molly Grantham follows closely on her Facebook page. It was first published there, which is why it's written in a personal way. For years Molly has followed hundreds of kids with uphill medical battles. Find this story and updates on all #MollysKids here.