Family supports Kosair after child's life saved

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Radcliff parents watched as child brought back to life

By Amber Coulter

Andrea and Casey Palmer never expected to be in the hospital seven weeks after bringing home their newborn daughter.

The Radcliff residents spent three weeks in intensive care and two weeks on another floor at Kosair Children’s Hospital in Louisville when their first born, Lexi, was diagnosed with infantile botulism.

The weeks they spent in the hospital and the years after have made the family members solid supporters of the hospital.

Much of that time was spent watching their baby lie paralyzed supported by a ventilator and wondering whether she would survive.

The illness comes when a baby swallows a certain spore released from overturned earth. If specific conditions are met after that, the spore attaches to a child’s intestines and breeds a neurotoxin that paralyzes the baby.

The Palmers took Lexi to Kosair when she began acting lethargic and spent the following weeks listening to doctors say their daughter would either recover or become so developmentally delayed she would die.

At one point, Lexi coded when doctors tried to take the tube out of her throat and her breathing passage became blocked, Andrea said.

“We watched them do CPR and chest compressions on our 7-week-old baby,” she said. “That’s pretty life-changing.”

The Palmers weren’t thinking about it at the time, but part of the way their lives were changing was the debt rapidly mounting as their daughter was treated.

Their stay cost them about $11,000 a day, plus $49,000 for the shot that saved Lexi and other costs.

Andrea said she and her husband joked with the nurses during the stay whenever there was an expense that they should put it on their tab. They also joked Lexi would have to get a job when she turned 16 to take over her Kosair payments.

“When we came out, our bills were right at about $300,000,” she said.

Insurance covered some of that, but it was Kosair charities that helped bring what remained down to reasonable payments for the family, Andrea said.

“To come out of that and not be under tremendous financial strain was a huge relief,” she said.

Four and a half years later, Lexi has recovered with the help of occupational and physical therapy.

She doesn’t appear to be developmentally delayed, except for some clumsiness. Andrea said she’s a bit clumsy, so it doesn’t seem strange that her daughter is, too.

Her parents say she’s a normal little girl who gets into childhood mischief and bosses around her siblings, Silas, 2, and Layla, 8-month.

She also is a poster child for the hospital where her life was saved, occasionally appearing in commercials and on billboards.

Lexi is old enough to recognize herself in the ads and feel special. It generally makes her act shy and smile widely, her parents said.

Andrea said a Kosair representative approached the family during a fundraiser they organized about using a photo of Lexi in a story about the event.

“The next thing you know, she was on billboards and bus stops, so we’ve been doing things with them ever since,” she said.

The girl’s parents also stayed involved with Kosair Charities.

The year after Lexi’s treatment, the Palmers began organizing what has become an annual softball tournament at Dawley Park in Radcliff.

The first tournament, in 2010, brought in about $3,000.

The number of teams and donations from sponsors, peeler cards and other fundraising efforts has increased since then. This July, the family and other volunteers raised $15,200 for Kosair.

They have contributed more than $38,000 since Lexi was treated, Andrea said.

“We decided we wanted to do something to give back,” she said.

Stephanie Smith, program and special events manager for Kosair, said she has plenty of good things to say about the family and their efforts.

“Kosair Charities could not be more appreciative for all that the Palmers do for us each year,” she said in a statement. “Not only do they spend months planning the Kosair Kids Softball Tournament to raise funds for other Kosair Kids, but they are always willing to share Lexi’s story to benefit our organization. The Palmers are a wonderful family who always have Kosair Charities best interest at heart.”

Andrea said she and her husband, who is a Shriner, are glad to help the hospital that helped them so much and to see the support that effort has drawn from the community.

“What we went through in that period of time in the hospital, it completely changed us,” she said. “We had to have the discussion of how we were going to handle it if we lost her. She was our first child. I was in there for my first Mother’s Day. When you watch the doctors of a hospital bring your brand new baby back to life, it just changes you.”

Amber Coulter can be reached at 270-505-1746 

or acoulter@the