Ronald McDonald House
Given a Chance
By Gene Davis
An eight–year friendship between two employees at the Four Seasons Hotel on Maui turned into love, and the “thirty–something” couple began to plot the course their lives would take together. Little did they know that bringing a baby into the world would bring with it such challenges.
After finding out that their baby was going to be a boy, Lara Bellini and Darrett Schoeppner started thinking about what to name him. Although Lara wanted to name the baby Darrett, dad wasn’t too excited about that. “I love my name now, but I hated it when I was growing up,” he admits. “I wouldn’t want to make him go through all the confusion.”
Chance had an uphill climb after being born weighing just one pound, nine ounces
But all of their plans—including what to name the baby—were suddenly put on hold when they found out there were serious problems with the pregnancy, about six months in. Lara was flown to Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children in Honolulu, where doctors put her on strict bed rest, trying to delay what appeared to be an imminent premature birth.
“The doctors at the hospital are very caring, but they don’t sugar–coat anything,” Darrett says. “From the very beginning, they objectively discussed with us the chances of our baby living or dying. They told us that since Lara was in her 24th week, his chances were 50–50, and that each day he stayed in mom’s womb, his chance of survival would increase significantly. Every day seemed to revolve around his ‘chance’ of making it. The right name for him just came to us.
So it was then, that Chance Keali’i Salvatore Schoeppner was born on April 21, 2009. Lara had managed to make it to her 25th week of pregnancy, but Chance weighed just one pound, nine ounces.
The Wailuku couple now spends countless hours each day by their baby’s side as he fights for his life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Doctors are working to help Chance grow stronger and make sure his organs begin to function fully. With each of the benchmarks that he meets, he is closer to going home. But as preemies slowly develop, parents quickly learn to temper their high hopes with realistic expectations because often, progress is followed by setbacks, and the emotional rollercoaster could be too much.
Recently, it happened to them. Chance had been doing so well that it began to look like he could be able to go home even before his original due date of August 3. But he had a bad reaction after a vaccination, even requiring resuscitation at one point. Lara and Darrett said they felt like they were “starting all over again.”
Lara is able to hold Chance now that he is out of the incubator
But the couple is determined to do whatever it takes to see this through, and Chance seems to have that fighting spirit too. “All the nurses down at the NICU say he’s ‘feisty,’” Lara proudly tells.
Lara and Darrett credit their employers at The Four Seasons and their friends on Maui for their “enormous” support. A close friend on Maui has even created a website at www.helpchance.com so that extended family members and friends can follow regular updates on Chance’s condition, and even make a donation to help the family with their medical expenses.
“And we can’t say enough about you guys here at the Ronald McDonald House who have made it as easy as possible for us to get through this,” praises Darrett. “We’re fortunate to be here, just three minutes away from the hospital. We don’t have to worry about where we’re putting our heads down every night, where we’re getting our meals, or where we’re going to shower. We’ve been able to just focus on being there for Chance without having to worry about everything else. That’s all really important, especially when you realize you will be in Honolulu for two to three months or longer.”
Lara and Darrett at their home–away–from home in Honolulu—the Ronald McDonald House
“And we’ve really learned a lot,” adds Lara. “It’s been very interesting meeting people from Guam and other islands. For me personally, it’s been nice talking with other people who are going through the same type of things we are. It’s just comforting.”
Darrett agrees. “Regardless of what walk of life we all come from, we are all parents with children who need medical assistance, and we all have that in common. We have the same stresses, the same worries. We all sit down over dinner and share our experiences with others that we probably never would have met if not for the circumstances. It’s inspiring when others tell of their successes on a certain day.”
Lara adds, “And when you think you’ve had a bad day, talking with everyone else here helps to put it all in perspective.”