CHIPLEY - Five month old Maely White came into the world facing the fight of her life, and several local residents are making sure the infant has plenty of support as she battles a mysterious illness that has doctors from all over the state at a loss.
Maely was born at Jackson Hospital in Marianna in March to Decoya White and Kristy Aycock of Chipley. Within an hour, she couldn't breath on her own and was placed on a ventilator.
Soon, she was transported to a hospital in Tallahassee, where she stayed for a week before being flown to Shands Hospital in Gainesville.
"She stayed in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) there for a total of six weeks," said Aycock. "She had to have a gastrotomy tube put in so that she could eat because she couldn't eat and breath at the same time, but we were eventually able to go home. We were home for about two months, and she started having more problems and was admitted back to Shands, where she started having seizures and coded on two different occasions."
More hospital stays followed over the course of the next several weeks in what Aycock describes as a vicious cycle of frustration and worry for her young daughter as doctors struggle to look for answers.
"She's literally had a million dollar work up," said Aycock. "She's had every test imaginable, everything the doctors could think of to find out what's wrong. At this point, they're saying there's nothing more they can really do, so we're taking her home to where all of our family is."
Aycock says Maely's periodic loss of oxygen to the brain has led to brain damage, so she doesn't respond like most five month olds - but she still knows when her loved ones are near.
"She's just a sweet baby who loves to be held," said Aycock.
Two local fundraisers have been scheduled to help offset the family's medical expenses. The first is a hamburger plate lunch set to take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. this Friday, Aug. 15 at Gulf Power in Chipley. Plates are $8 and can be pre-ordered by calling 415-4242.
Local photographer Tabatha Phillips will also host a fundraiser with all proceeds going toward Maely and her family. Phillips and other volunteers will be at Blue Lake Park in Chipley from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 20 doing "mini-photography sessions" for a discounted price. The event will also feature an auction and bake sale. For more information, call (334) 714-8374.
Phillips says she felt led to help in some way because of her own, similar experience.
"I lost my son, Johnnie, when he was just five years old after an extended illness," said Phillips. "I know how important it is to be able to not worry so much about medical expenses during difficult times so that you can focus more on spending time with your child."
Ayock says she and her family are touched by the concern of the community.
"I'm quite overwhelmed at everybody's support," said Aycock. "I have messages every day from people wanting to know how they can help. We know what the doctors are saying, but we continue to pray for a miracle because that's all she has left."