A year ago, Jessica Baker wished for one blessing: that her baby, Natallie, would live long enough to see her first Christmas.
"We don't look at longterm with Natallie. We just take every day we got with her," Jessica said on December 7th, 2012.
Not only did Natallie live through that holiday, but the now one-year-old girl just ate her first bites of mashed potatoes and gravy on Thanksgiving.
"The little steps are big steps for us," Jessica said.
Early on, doctors diagnosed Natallie with Malignant Migrating Partial Seizure Disorder, a condition that causes her seizures to constantly change and move to different parts of her brain. The cause is hard to find and it is hard to treat. Natallie had up to 30 seizures per day. Natallie also has a genetic mutation, making her seizures uncontrollable. Natallie has physical therapy three times a week, occupational therapy twice a week and speech therapy one time per week. She has also had several extended stays at Mayo Clinic in Rochester. The Avera McKennan Foundation has helped pay for travel costs and hotel expenses.
"They weren't able to work for a bit, caring for their daughter. Just the little bit that we were able to support them, so they could get her back and forth for medical care was important," Sarah Cady, Director of Annual Giving for the Avera McKennan Foundation, said.
This took away a lot of stress for Jessica, her husband, Ryan, and two other daughters, Mackenzie and Brooklynn.
"To have our family, this was the most important thing for Natallie," Jessica said.
You can help families like the Bakers on #GivingTuesday. You may have found deals on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but #GivingTuesday is a way to give back. It is a movement to create a national day of giving to kick off the giving season added to the calendar on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving. There are many organizations you can donate to, including the Avera McKennan Foundation.
"A dollar is going to make a difference. It doesn't need to be $1,000; it doesn't need to be $100. If 100 people gave $1, there's $100 for somebody to get a tank of gas to spend time with their family," Jessica said.
Natallie has a lot of family time these days, and Jessica said her daughter's condition has improved. On average, Natallie now has three seizures per day. Despite that progress, the goal has not changed. One year later, Jessica said every day she gets to hold her daughter is still a blessing.
"Natallie gives us enough hope. Natallie's still here today. A year ago, we didn't think she'd be here for Christmas. And she'll hopefully spend another Christmas with us. That's all the hope we need," Jessica said.