Thanks come easy to Smith family this year
• Doctors have told them numerous times their son should not be alive
By Parish Howard
Randy and Marcia Smith know something about miracles.
Their youngest son, Bryce Matthew, who turned 9 months old Nov. 4, reminds them with every silent giggle, with every quiet smile and every precious breath just how much a part of real-life miracles can be.
"He should have died three times," Marcia said, sitting on the floor while her husband lifted their infant son into his lap. The dark-haired child smiled, scrunched his nose, reached past the clear plastic tube that feeds oxygen into the surgically opened hole in his throat, and stuck his fingers in his mouth.
If not for the tube, the stack of medical equipment near the living room crib or the fact that his laughs and coos and cries are completely silent, you'd never know how sick he is. If his family, who spends every moment possible holding and playing with him didn't tell you, you'd never know just how miraculous his little smiles are.
In July of 2001, after two miscarriages and eight and a half years of trying to have a second child, the Wrens couple found out that one was on his way.
Even before Bryce was born, they knew some things would be different.
On the Sunday before New Year's, Marcia went into early labor, but the doctors were able to stop it.
She was put on bed rest for over a month, but on Feb. 4 she had to go to the hospital eight times to stop the labor.
She went back to the hospital the first of March.
"I was 7 weeks premature, but our first child, Jamie, was also 7 weeks premature," she said. "Jamie only weighed four and a half pounds when he was born, but he came home in three days and was healthy as a horse."
Maturity tests told the doctors baby Bryce's lungs were already 98.9 percent developed, and although they knew he had a kidney problem, they thought it may be safe to deliver.
"I was wore out," Marcia said. "I told Randy, 'Let's have the baby, I'm tired.'"
The doctors broke her water at 12:15 a.m. and by 6 a.m. Feb. 4 he was born. The delivery itself was easy and although he was seven weeks early, Bryce already weighed over six pounds.
"He was born a blue baby, but the doctors put a little oxygen under his nose and he turned pink like that" Marcia said with a snap of her fingers.
Within 30 minutes the tears of happiness and excitement over the birth turned into something else as doctors rushed to get the infant ventilated.
Something was blocking his airway.
"The surgeon said he couldn't see anything on the sonogram," Marcia said. "The radiologist said there was definitely something there, but the surgeon said that he wouldn't operate on something he couldn't see."
Bryce was one day old when the doctors discovered that his aorta had grown on the wrong side of his heart and was looping around his trachea and esophagus. The doctors called the malformation a vascular ring, but said that it may not be a problem, that some people spend their entire lives with them and never know it.
His lungs were less developed than the pre-birth test had shown. Bryce was diagnosed with reactive airway disease, server lung disease, low blood pressure, gastroesophageal reflux, and a pinhole bleed in his brain.
On March 5, after spending his first month of life in the hospital, the Smiths were finally able to take their baby home.
"It was scary going home," Marcia said. "He had stopped breathing at the hospital and we realized that it could happen at home too, but it was also exciting. It was just like anybody taking their baby home for the first time."
Bryce was doing better, but an oxygen tank came home with him as his lungs were still a little premature.
Three weeks later he went back to the hospital because he was very congested, and after a couple of days he was diagnosed with RSV, a severe respiratory virus.
While there, alone in their hospital room, Marcia and Bryce began one of the longest nights of their lives.
"I just turned around to wash out his bottle and the monitor went crazy," Marcia said. "He was already turning blue and purple."
They took her out of the room while the doctors went to work on her son.
"When I saw him again, he was pink but he had a wild look on his face," she said. "He looked scared."
Something bad was wrong, and the doctors were trying to get him to the Medical College of Georgia (MCG), which has special equipment for ventilating an infant.
Before they could get him to the other hospital, the baby's heart stopped four different times.
"For the first four days they gave us no hope at all," Marcia said. "The machines were living for him. It didn't look good and we couldn't get a straight answer from anyone. He was hooked up to more machines than he had been when he was born."
For four days the family watched their child struggle to live.
On the fifth day he started breathing on his own again.
On the ninth day they took him off the ventilator.
"Three hours later he was a totally different child," Marcia said. "It apparently took the virus about 10 days to run its course."
Bryce came home for the second time.
But not long after, he stopped breathing at home and had to be resuscitated by his father.
At 3 months old Bryce was admitted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at MCG. It proved to be a busy month for the new baby.
On May 14 the doctors performed a cardiac catheterization and found that he had a double-aortic arch. The vascular ring that was constricting the trachea and esophagus was worse than they thought. More than 70 percent of his airway was being blocked. He was also diagnosed with pulmonary stenosis, the narrowing of the pulmonary valve which supplies blood to the lungs for oxygenation.
Bryce was paralyzed and kept sedated for 10 days while doctors prepared for open heart surgery.
The Smiths spent May 20, their 13th wedding anniversary, praying their infant son would pull through.
And he did.
"It was the second time the doctors told us that Bryce shouldn't be here," Marcia said.
But an airway disease kept him on the ventilator. The pipe that kept him breathing so irritated his throat that the doctors were afraid if they removed it his trachea would swell shut. Three days after Bryce pulled through the heart surgery, they saw no other option than to cut a hole in his windpipe and insert a tracheotomy tube.
Marcia admits that they were uneasy about the procedure.
"We prayed about it," she said. "I just kept thinking, a man is putting that hole there. It isn't something God had done."
He was discharged on June 6 after the family had been trained in trach care.
"One of the hardest things has been not being able to hear him cry, laugh or coo," Marcia said. "You see his face light up, he smiles and you can hear the gurgle from his trach and you can just imagine those sounds. But it's hard not being able to hear them."
The Smiths had been through a lot and had seen their child suffer more than anyone ever should. But the baby's struggle for life was not over.
The third Sunday in July he took another turn for the worse.
"He had been fighting and fussing all night," Marcia said. "One time I went to check on him and he was turning a gray-blue color."
The family took off for MCG and once there found out their baby was suffering from congestive heart failure.
He was diagnosed with IHSS (Idiopathic Hypertrophic Subaortic Stenosis) a condition where the lining of his heart was thickening.
After all he had survived, Bryce was given only several months to live.
"The doctors told us there was nothing we could do," Marcia said. "They literally told us that he was dying. We began to thank God for every day, every moment we had with Bryce."
She said that she had everyone she knew praying for him and she herself read scripture on healing to her tiny son every day.
With as much hope as they could muster and every ribbon of faith they could cling to, the family spent the next few weeks as close as they could to their baby.
Four weeks later the doctors told them that while he looked a little better, he was still very sick.
Six weeks later, Marcia remembers watching a smile spread across the cardiologist's face while he listened to her son's heart.
"I remember he looked at me and told us that Bryce was significantly better," Marcia said. "He said, 'I think Bryce is going to fool us again.'"
It was the third time they had been told baby Bryce shouldn't be alive. But he was, he is.
"Over the last month he has been happy all the time," She said.
Bryce's 11-year-old brother Jamie helps with trach-care, cleaning the area around the tube in the little throat. He reads to him, draws him pictures, helps with the suction tube that clears out his brother's congested throat. But he has not changed a diaper
"We're really proud of Jamie," Randy said. "He's made some very mature decisions. Like, he was thinking of playing football this year at EBA, but when he realized that he'd be getting in late after practices and wouldn't get to spend as much time with his brother, he decided he wouldn't play this year."
In the last two weeks Bryce cut his first tooth and has begun sitting up on his own.
The cardiologist says that he is doing a lot better, but after a Dec. 11 appointment they should know a lot more.
According to Dr. Reggie Pilcher, the Smith's pediatrician, Bryce is still a candidate for a heart-lung transplant.
"He seems to be doing pretty well considering all that's going on," Dr. Pilcher said. "He always seems to bounce right back."
In 20 years of practice, he has only seen one other child that was as sick as Bryce who lived.
"I don't know how he is here today. The night he coded, he was gone. I just don't know. I don't know how he's made it through all this. The doctors have been telling his parents all along that their child is terminal. That he's not going to live, but Bryce keeps on going and going. And now he's improving. To call him a miracle baby, that might be an understatement. And despite how sick he is, he has to be the happiest baby in the world. I've never seen a baby that can be this sick, that could be barely hanging, trying to catch each breath and is still smiling. When you get worried, he cheers you up. He's quite a kid."
The Smiths are thankful for the five machines they keep in their home, the nine prescription medications and all the medical know-how that has helped save their son's life, but their thanks also goes to a higher power.
"We've got a lot to be thankful for this year," Randy said. "We've learned not to take anything for granted. We have better knowledge of the power of prayer and I believe this whole experience has brought us closer together as a family."
They have learned to appreciate every moment that comes along, every little thing.
And it shows.
"Bryce is a very special little boy who taught me a multitude of lessons," said Cynthia Mundy, a neonatal nurse practitioner in the neonatal ICU. "His family is what helped him the most in the hardest of times. Marcia and Randy were always by his side and knew when he was having a good or bad day. I am excited each time Marcia calls and gives me a positive update on Bryce because I can hear the joy and hope in her voice and the love she has for her special little boy."
Commission keeps landfill open
• Board votes 5-0 to temporarily haul trash out of county
By Ben Nelms
The question over what commissioners will do with the Jefferson County landfill was settled at a called meeting Monday with a 5-0 vote to keep the landfill open and temporarily haul trash out of the county. Motions to discuss contract details of the interim trash removal by Advanced Disposal Services representatives and one to research information to determine new rates for tipping and user fees each passed 5-0.
Commissioners considered three disposal alternatives set forth by consulting engineers Robin Chasman and Walt Sanders. The options included continuing operations, closing the landfill and hauling trash out of the county or operating the Mennonite Church Road facility for five years and then closing it. The board considered the option of keeping the facility open to be the most viable for the future needs of residents.
Chasman said based on a cost analysis and current data of each option there was no clear choice that could be made strictly on the basis of cost. He said that for purposes of comparison he used estimates of $36 and $43 per ton to haul trash away as well as estimating cumulative costs over a period of nine year and 40 years. All estimated costs used 2002 dollars and assumed that 18,000 tons of trash would be brought in to the facility annually.
Using the $43 per ton figure to conduct the cost analysis, the option of keeping the landfill open and completing construction of the next cell would cost $1.16 million the first year, $8.45 million over 10 years and $40.48 million over 40 years. Comparatively, the costs for closing the facility in five years would cost $1.3 million the first year, $9.2 million over 10 years and $45.3 million over 40 years. The final option, closing the facility now, would cost $1.65 million the first year, $9.77 million over 10 years and $45.85 million over 40 years. Chasman reminded commissioners that all estimates involved only costs and did not account for current or future revenue to be generated by trash entering the facility.
Commissioners voted 5-0 to meet with representatives of Advanced Disposal Services at the Dec. 2 work session to discuss the contract details of the Advanced bid to haul trash out of the county on an interim basis until the new cell is completed. The move is necessary because the current cell will be full at the end of January and the new cell cannot be completed by that time. Commissioners voted to entertain the company's proposal over those of three other companies. The Advanced proposal, at $44.50 per ton, was the only one that provided trash compactors and did not require that the county be responsible for baling trash. Other companies providing bids included BFI, Waste Management and Sullivan Environmental.
Citing a separate matter of the need to address revenue options, the board voted 5-0 to have county auditor Walter Jones and county administrator James Rogers research the issues involved with increasing tipping fees and user fees at the landfill. The move came after Jones cautioned the board to obtain all the information needed to pursue making a decision on establishing new rates. The vote came after a discussion where some on the board said they did not have enough information to make a decision at the Monday meeting.
Also at the meeting, commissioners voted 5-0 to accept Chasman & Associates' proposal to transition the current inert landfill, located at the Mennonite Church Road facility, into a Construction and Demolition landfill.
The permit process will propose that the area be expanded to 40 acres from its current size of approximately 20 acres. Doing so will allow for construction and other materials to be deposited in the C&D facility rather in the Subtitle D portion of the property, as is now the case.
The move will decrease the rate at which the Subtitle D facility is filled. A significant percentage of construction and demolition debris now enters the landfill but cannot be deposited in the inert landfill because it is used mainly for yard debris such as limbs and leaves and is not permitted for C&D materials.
The vote by commissioners calls for the process not to exceed $67,000.
Process components include a site acceptability study, topographical survey, the addition of three to five monitoring wells, acquiring a land disturbance permit and the engineering plan.
Four face felonies in P.O. break-in
• Charges include arson, burglary and forgery
By Ben Nelms
Three adults and one juvenile were charged with burglary, arson and forgery in the Nov. 17 break-in at the Louisville post office.
Melody Trimble, 19, of Wrens, was charged with burglary and second-degree arson; Twaine Holloway, 27, of Louisville, was charged with burglary; and Jennifer Pascal, 27, was charged with forgery, according to Louisville Police Chief Jimmy Miller and investigators with Jefferson County Sheriff's Office. The juvenile, a 14 year-old Louisville female, was charged with burglary and first-degree arson and sent to the Youth Detention Center in Sandersville.
The incident was discovered at approximately 11 p.m. on Nov. 17 when a post office customer entered the Broad Street office. She smelled smoke and saw four people hurriedly leaving the building. The woman contacted police and provided a description of the individuals she had seen, Miller said.
Police entered the building and found the customer service window open and found that several pieces of paper attached to a bulletin board had been burned, a large circa 1930 standing display board had been broken and a standing ash can had been urinated in and dumped over.
A subsequent check of the premises by local postal officials determined that three money orders and miscellaneous pieces of equipment had been stolen.
Police and Sheriff's deputies located Trimble and the juvenile females on 8th Street within 30 minutes.
Officers found one of the money orders and a postal service label machine in their possession. Another money order was found crumpled on the ground nearby.
Holloway was arrested the following day and Pascal was arrested Nov. 19 after returning to the post office to cash the third money order. The second male originally reported at the scene was not charged.
Agencies participating in the investigation included Louisville Police, Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, Georgia Bureau of Investigation and US Postal Inspectors.
Community Christmas events scheduled
• Stapleton hold Christmas tree lighting this weekend
By Luke Moses
As the holidays approach, communities across the area are planning a variety of events in an effort to celebrate Christmas and the holiday season.
Stapleton will kick off the Christmas season with the lighting of its approximately 24-foot Christmas tree Nov. 30. The ceremony leading up to the lighting of the tree will begin at 6 p.m. with the singing of Christmas carols. After the lighting of the tree, refreshments will be served.
Second in Jefferson County to light their Christmas tree will be the City of Wrens, commencing the city's tree lighting ceremony at 6 p.m., Friday, Dec. 6. The tree lighting ceremony will take place in Wrens' downtown square. The ceremony will begin with prayer and speeches from various pastors. School and church choirs will participate singing a variety of Christmas songs. The tree is an estimated 30 feet tall and is adorned with approximately 9800 lights. Children will have the opportunity to have their picture taken with Santa Claus immediately after the ceremony.
Beginning at 10:30 a.m., Saturday, Dec. 7, Wadley will host their annual Christmas parade, which will include the usual array of cars and a number of floats.
Citizens will have the opportunity to attend two Christmas parades Dec. 7 with Wrens beginning their Christmas parade at 2 p.m. The parade had a total of 15 floats last year and more are expected this year. There will be a number of new "surprises" in the parade according to Walter Hannah, coordinator of the event.
Louisville will host their annual Christmas parade at 1 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 14. In addition to the Jefferson County High School marching band, coordinators of this event have invited two bands from Augusta who have never participated in the Louisville parade. Other organizations including groups such as the Shriners have also been invited to participate in this event. Coordinators of the parade are estimating a crowd of around 4,000 people.
Glascock County is also hosting their Christmas parade on Dec. 14. Beginning at 2 p.m. in Gibson, this parade will include such participants as the Shriners, clowns and horses. Additionally, the parade will have a number of antique cars, floats and fire trucks.
On Dec. 22, the North Jefferson Ministerial Association along with local pianist John Templeton will host a community choir Christmas even starting at 6 p.m. at Wrens Baptist Church. Coordinators of this event hope to see all races and denominations brought together through this event.
Other information about upcoming holiday events can be obtained in the Kaleidoscope in this and upcoming editions of The News and Farmer/The Jefferson Reporter.