Finding Beauty in the Journey
Dana Kovats and her husband Alfonso have experienced a remarkable journey since the birth of their daughter, Mariel, in September 2010.
Diagnosed with Down syndrome and a heart condition that needed to be surgically repaired, Mariel was life-flighted to Seattle Children’s Hospital for emergency surgery. After three weeks in the hospital, Mariel came home with an array of medications and a feeding tube and loving parents ready to help.
Dana threw herself into learning the ins and outs of caring for her daughter. “I laugh now about the crazy schedule we were on, but I was determined to help my daughter eat and grow. It was like boot camp at home, and every time we met with the cardiologist she showed improvement,” Dana said.
Familiar with Children’s Village from visits to see the cardiologist and feeding specialist, Dana was invited to join a support group called Holland, for families whose child has a special health care need. Dana was connected with a local mother who also has a daughter with very similar medical issues. The two women talked on the phone and immediately hit it off; even determining that their husbands had known each other as children.
“At first, I wasn’t sure I wanted to join the Holland group because I figured I was already ‘on the other side,’” Dana said. “I didn’t think I really needed a support group, especially since my daughter was doing so well. But because my new friend was going to attend and I wanted an opportunity to spend time with her, I decided to try it.”
The Holland group meets once a week for eight weeks, connecting parents of children with special health care needs by supporting the varied and complex emotional needs of families. Dana’s group so enjoyed their time together, many of them continue to unite monthly at the Holland Reunion Group, where graduates from other groups meet for continued support and connection.
Mariel is now 20-months-old, healthy and thriving. She receives speech and occupational therapy at Children’s Village and Dana has used her experience from those first months to serve on a parental oversight committee focused on feeding issues at Seattle Children’s Hospital. She remains active with Parent to Parent at Children’s Village, using her experiences to connect and support other families from around the Valley.
“Our family has so much joy,” Dana said. “You don’t want to cry, but you do, because you are so happy. You’re provided the baby God gives you.”