Sometimes Candace Arick can’t believe how far her little girl has come — and how far she, too, has come after dealing with a very sick child.
Born 3 years ago, Norah was diagnosed with a meconium cyst that led to ruptured intestines in utero. She was rushed to Akron Children’s Hospital for her first surgery at just 4 hours old, and had a second surgery before finally going home after 2 months in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
After progressing at home for the next month, little Norah had another setback: her intestines ruptured, requiring emergency surgery at Akron Children’s. Even with the quick attention, problems continued, as Norah went into septic shock, leading her organs to fail. At one point, Norah began having seizures, which raised another set of challenges. Her second hospital stay totaled more than 5 months.
Throughout her only daughter’s serious illness, Candace Arick continued to update friends and family through the Norah Princess Warrior page on Facebook. She shared photos of Norah and detailed her triumphs and challenges.
Today, after 6 major surgeries, more than 100 days in the hospital, dozens of medical appointments and multiple weekly therapies, Candace is optimistic about her daughter’s future.
She recently posted: “Norah’s progress is huge. HUGE!! We are just in awe of everything that she does. Nothing has come easy for her, but that doesn’t stop her from doing all the things she wants to do. After everything she’s been through since she was born, she’s still the sweetest happiest little girl that brings so much hope and inspiration to people that have never even met her. Which is why I continue to share her journey.”
Candace and her husband, Vince, of Canton, are also the parents of 3 boys who dote on their little sister. But when Norah was at her sickest, Candace struggled because she wanted to be there for her sons as well.
“After leaving the hospital some days, after being with Norah who was practically on her death bed for what seemed like months… I wouldn’t know what to do with myself,” she wrote on Facebook. “I knew that I had to get groceries and such for my other 3 children at home… and whatever else they needed. I would walk around the store and try to pretend that everything was OK, just another day. Things just seemed so surreal, like I was trapped in a horrible dream.”
Once Norah turned the corner and began making progress, Candace found that returning to “normal” was not necessarily something that came easily.
“It’s hard to explain, but there’s definitely a process that you have to work through to feel normal enough again to fit back into society after going through something so traumatic with your kid,” Candace said. “You have a hard time relating to other people, and you feel isolated because no one understands what you’ve been through. I’m happy to say that I’m at a point in my life where I do feel closer to people again, and I’ve met plenty of people who have their own hardships they are struggling through. Nobody has a worry-free, pain-free life.”
Candace and Vince have tried to maintain as much normalcy as possible as a family, even going to Florida for a family vacation in 2017 when Norah’s worst days were behind her.
“We decided we wanted to get away from everything and drive to Florida, and we had the best week of our life,” Candace said. “Just a few months before that, we weren’t sure if Norah was going to need a liver transplant or not. We thought, let’s do this while she’s heathy and stable enough. It was a big deal for the doctors to say OK.”
Candace says today that she’s grateful for the help of her in-laws, who live next door and were able to help care for the boys. She’s kept in touch with her extended family, who are in California, through Facebook but hopes to soon visit there so they can finally meet Norah.
She credits the care her daughter received at Akron Children’s with making the difference the past 3 years.
“We love Akron Children’s,” she said. “We owe our daughter’s life to the team there. If anyone can pull some hope or inspiration from Norah’s journey, that would make us very happy.”
And Candace hopes that by sharing her experience, other parents struggling with the challenges of parenting a child with a serious illness can find peace.
“If I could say something to myself during that time nearly 3 years ago, I would say… Even though you are scared, even though you are hurting… keep standing, keep breathing, and be strong. Hold onto the hope you have with everything you have, even if it’s just a shred. Trust that what’s meant to be will be.”