Chrissy Guilbeaux Thompson, 39, is a “typical” mom who loves her family more than life.
She speaks of her incredible childhood and great memories growing up in Lafayette, Louisiana.
Chrissy shares the story of how she and her husband, Mark, of New Iberia, met and fell in love after years of dancing together in Breaux Bridge and beyond.
In 2009, they got married and decided to start a family.
But that’s where the “normalcy” stops.
As a young girl, Chrissy dealt with multiple problems in her reproductive system.
“When I was 12, doctors determined that my left ovary had strangulated itself with one of my Fallopian tubes, and it was growing to the size of a cantaloupe,” she says. “The next day, my left ovary and appendix were removed.”
Throughout the next several years, Chrissy endured multiple surgeries and was told that, should she decide to have children, she would have to deliver them via C-section.
In October 2009, Chrissy found out she was pregnant. Although ecstatic, she was anxious about the pregnancy and birth after being “cut up” so much over the years.
“The pregnancy was fine, though,” she says. “I went into labor a month early at Lafayette General, and my daughter Addison was born, looking good with a full head of hair.”
But something wasn’t right.
Doctors immediately took Addison to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), where she stopped breathing more than 20 times in one day.
Scans showed some irritable brain activity, so Addison was put through a battery of tests.
Everyone was baffled.
“I had to go home after five days,” Chrissy says. “Doctors still didn’t know what was going on with her, and she was having episodes for a week. But then they just stopped. I called her name one day, and it’s like she just woke up. Whatever cloud she was in, she was coming out of it.”
After two weeks in the NICU, Addison was sent home. The family was ready to resume “normal” life, and things were going well for the first seven months.
“But then I started noticing little things,” Chrissy explains. “One day, she was standing on the counter and I was holding her hands, and she started to walk – and her right foot kind of dragged along. It looked just like someone who had suffered a stroke.”
Shortly thereafter, Chrissy found out she was expecting baby No. 2. She gave birth to a son, Mark Jr., on Sept. 8, 2011.
During this time, she was also trying to get answers about Addison’s health.
At nine months old, doctors discovered that Addison did, in fact, suffer a stroke, and she was missing 1/6 of her brain.
“It was a condition called encephalo maleco,” Chrissy explains. “The brain tissue basically melts away.”
Addison was also diagnosed with cerebral palsy, but doctors were unsure of the severity.
“The neurologist basically told us that we have the potential of having a child with no major problems or a kid who may never walk or talk,” Chrissy says. “But it didn’t add up – she was already doing so much, so we got her in early intervention and private therapy.”
Today, Addison is in second grade at Myrtle Place and will have a cerebral palsy-related surgery in December to help with usage of her hand. Other than that, Chrissy says, “the brain scan doesn’t match what you see.”
On June 4, 2015, the family welcomed its third child, a son named Henry.
And his birth was extraordinary.
Chrissy heard about C-sections using a clear drape, during which the mother can witness the birth of her baby.
“I went to Women’s Services at Lafayette General,” she says. “And I asked for what’s called a family-centered C-section.”
Everyone was onboard – and after lots of “red tape,” Chrissy got her wish.
“It was like a clear drape with a window,” she explains. “My doctor, Jennifer Pugliese, she was wonderful. I had this really cool moment during the birth of getting the doctor’s perspective and vice versa. We were all amazed. I was able to see him come right up through my belly. And I wound up getting skin to skin, surprisingly. Chest to chest. He snuggled in, and fell asleep. It was the most beautiful, peaceful, amazing moment.”
Life has been far from easy for this family of five – but things are great, Chrissy says.
“My kids drive me crazy,” she adds with a laugh. “I would love to drink vodka tonics every night – but we pay our dues for parenthood. And one day, we can look back and say, wow, look at what we did. We finally have a normal, typical life – a fun little family.”
Chrissy, who serves as the Development Officer for the Lafayette General Foundation, has high praise for the hospital and all its services.
After the birth of her second child, Chrissy learned about something called the “Family Circle,” which enables parents to connect while facing hardships like miscarriage, loss or time in the NICU.
“That’s when I got involved,” she says. “Being able to give back and help so many, after my experience with Addison, especially. When you face a scary diagnosis, you don’t know where to turn – you think a person can’t do anything. You go through a grieving process, embarrassment, pain – and now I look at it differently.”
For more information on the Lafayette General Foundation and Family Circle, visit www.lafayettegeneral.com.