Family especially thankful at Christmas
Samantha Angell beamed when asked what she wanted Santa to bring her for Christmas.
"A little brother," exclaimed Samantha, a 6-year-old kindergartner at Tonganoxie Elementary School.
That was news to her parents, Jack and Christy Angell. "No, no," Christy emphatically responded.
The Angells, who also have a second daughter, 3-year-old Sydney, aren't ready to add another bundle of joy to the family.
Sydney weighed a very healthy 9 pounds, 9 ounces, but Samantha weighed far less.
Just 25 weeks into the pregnancy, Christy gave birth to Samantha, who weighed 1 pound, 10 ounces. She was born more than three months premature.
Last Thursday, Samantha celebrated her sixth birthday. She now weighs 46 pounds.
"I was so hysterical," Christy said about those first months. "There were days that were so bleak and then there were days that were so good. It goes up and down for every parent. I feel like she is our miracle baby. She's over a million dollars."
Samantha spent the first 106 days of her life at Overland Park Regional Medical Center. Finally, on March 9, 2000, she came home. Her due date was March 30.
When Samantha came home, she still used a ventilator. And, she was connected to a monitor.
"I think the monitor was for our benefit," Jack said.
Christy noted how nervous she and Jack, being first-time parents, were about bringing Samantha home.
"And it's hard," Christy said. "It was our first child."
But Christy had a mother's intuition. Despite the odds, she knew Samantha would pull through.
It didn't hurt that churches in Tonganoxie, Basehor and even Kansas City were praying for the tiny Angell.
"I mean, power of prayer," Christy said.
For about two days, Christy experienced problems during the 13th week of her pregnancy. After Samantha was born, doctors found a small tear in the placenta.
Doctors thought the placenta tear possibly was linked to the complications.
"That's the only explanation they could come up with," Christy said.
According to Christy and Jack, Samantha almost needed heart surgery.
"And she was super, super, super close to having eye surgery," Christy said. "We still go back and see the same eye doctor who saw her when she was born."
Samantha does wear glasses and wears a patch on one eye for a few hours most days. She wears the patch over her dominant eye so that the eye with the lesser vision can improve.
Each time Samantha gained a pound as an infant, Christy held a mini-celebration.
Christy would bring small cakes or other treats to Samantha's nurses with each pound her daughter gained.
"After three pounds I was so excited," Christy said.
When Samantha came home, she weighed 6 pounds, 5 ounces.
"It took you a while to get to 10 pounds," Jack said to Samantha.
Samantha was so small when she was born that, for some time, she was bathed in a small plastic bucket.
Although Jack and Christy were happy when Samantha was healthy enough to leave the hospital, doctors asked that she stay at home.
"They said, 'We don't want to sound like bad people, but don't take her to church, don't take her out places,'" Christy said. "Her immune system is not awesome."
The Tonganoxie couple said they were thankful for what the Overland Park hospital did for their daughter.
"We were happy with the hospital," Jack said. "They were pretty good with us."
"They totally saved her life," she said.
They also said they were thankful for Tonganoxie residents reaching out to help during those stressful weeks, whether it was prayer, bringing food or visiting the hospital.
"We just wanted everyone to know that we feel very blessed and thankful for everything everyone's done for us," Christy said.
A happy kindergartner
Samantha has plans for two careers when she gets older.
"A veterinarian and a life guard," Samantha said with a huge grin, her eyes sparkling through her red-rimmed glasses.
Her mother said she wanted to be a lifeguard "so she can twirl her whistle like this." Christy made a motion with her hand as if she were twirling a whistle so that the whistle cord would wrap around her fingers.
"And I can dive underwater," Samantha said.
On Saturday, Samantha and many of her friends celebrated her birthday with a trip to the Legends in Kansas City, Kan., to watch the movie "Happy Feet."
The day was a reminder for Christy about how fortunate the Angell family is.
"I just think it's amazing how little she was and how much we went through and what could have happened, that she's doing so well now. And she's doing well in school."