by Tonia Fishback, Reporter
“To be blessed” means “to be favored by God”. Out of the ashes of tragedy Jamey and Claudia Salley of Belmont have truly been blessed.
Looking back on that Dec. 2006 day, two weeks before Christmas, the routine activities gave no warning to the upcoming events that would change the lives of the Salley family forever. While traveling along I-20 an 18-wheeler rear-ended the back of the Lincoln driven by Mrs. Salley. The fiery crash left Jamey with burns over a third of his body and Claudia sustained head and spinal cord injuries. Paramedics revived Ms Salley three times between the wreck site and the hospital. Four-month-old Levi, who was strapped in a car seat, perished as a result of the collision.
Due to her injuries Claudia has no memory of that dreadful day and is paralyzed from her armpits down. She spent a month after the accident at LSU and another month in rehabilitation before returning home.
Even though the question of why she lost her son can not be answered she is a firm believer in ‘everything happens for a reason’ and has faith that her family was were where they were because God put them there.
“He put us there for a purpose,” she states. “God knew I could handle this out of all the people in the world he thought we were the strongest to handle it and now I have two blessings out of it.”
During the winter of ‘09, the Salley’s found out they were pregnant and the family’s life took a new and interesting turn. Her first ultrasound put a little extra spin on things when the couple found out they were having twins.
“I knew how special they were the minute we found out I was pregnant,” stated Mrs. Salley.
There are fewer than 10 known cases in the U.S. of a women paralyzed and pregnant with twins. There were more worries and concerns after finding out it was twins. Claudia’s physician, Dr. Lynn Groome, chair OB-GYN at LSU, monitored her pregnancy closely throughout the eight month pregnancy. Due to the spinal cord injury, Claudia suffers from autonomic dysreflexia, going into labor could trigger a fatal attack. This occurs any time the body experiences a pain stimulus that she cannot feel. With premature labor being a concern with any multiple births, the autonomic dysreflexia put her at an even higher risk.
Thirty-six weeks was the goal set for pregnancy, but Dr. Groome had Claudia admitted into LSU at 32-weeks as a precautionary measure. Once the 36-week goal was accomplished an amniocentesis was performed to check the twin’s lung maturity. The results came back normal and a C-section was scheduled for three days later.
The main operating room served as a labor and delivery room. An average C-section takes 10 - 15 minutes but Salley’s was expected to take one to two hours.
On October 16, 2009 three surgeons; two anesthesiologists; eleven nurses; a full team to take care of the babies and two eager parents welcomed healthy blue-eyed baby boys into the world.
Eli was born at 2:11 p.m., weighing 5 lbs., 8 ozs. Isaac was not far behind, making his appearance at 2:13 p.m., weighing 5 lbs., 1 oz.
“I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect pregnancy and delivery,” Claudia said. “It was a miracle in God’s hand.”
The twins were taken straight to the newborn unit and got to leave the hospital when Mom did. She spent four days in the hospital recovering from the c-section but was able to return to her wheelchair two days after the births.
After 36 days in the hospital the Salleys were on their way home with two true blessings. According to mom it did not take Isaac long to out grow his brother, Eli in the beginning but now at six months the boys are pretty much the same size. Both boys are healthy and happy; Eli weighs 16 lbs., 3 ozs. and Isaac weighs 16 lbs., 5 ozs.
These fraternal twins only have two things in common, their birthday and last name, according to mom, Claudia. There are two different formulas, nipples and sizes of diapers used in the Salley home. Mom and Dad are also dealing with two different personality. Eli, a.k.a. Velcro, finds comfort in being held or touched; while brother, Isaac is more laid back and happy sitting up looking around.
Mom says a normal day starts at 7 a.m. with two very hungry and inpatient babies. Sweet potatoes, oatmeal and fruit baby foods are the favorites for breakfast. Help from both grandmothers and a “nanny” from church a couple of times a week makes the days routine go by smoother but Levi is never far from mind and is always in her heart.
“It’s hard to believe the changes of the last three years,” says Claudia. “I think about Levi every day and wonder what he’d be doing right now.”
Levi would have been three years older then his twin brothers.
Her optimistic attitude and strong faith have helped her overcome obstacles thrown her way due to the physical disabilities. Being in a wheelchair brought up concerns of losing balance or dropping the babies. A nursing pillow helps support the babies during diaper changes and feeding. It is secured around Claudia and the wheelchair by clamps.
As the boys grow, more obstacles and challenges will come up but the Salley’s will take it one day at a time as they have done over the last three and a half years.
“I’m looking forward to all those amazing moments of them learning new things,” says Salley.
In the future, Mrs. Salley plans to return to school and become a nurse practitioner. She is ‘98 graduate of Pleasant Hill and has a Bachelors degree in Nursing. She was employed in the Pediatric Unit at Willis Knighton South at the time of the accident. Her husband, Jamey is a ‘99 graduate of Belmont Christian Academy and owns a trucking company.
Through all the trials and tribulations Claudia remains positive and keeps a humorous outlook, quoting Mother Teresa, “I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish that He didn’t trust me so much.”