When Seth and Kata DeLoach from Newburgh, Ind., welcomed their newborn daughter Reagan in October 2013, all they noticed was how beautiful she was.
“Being first-time parents, you think your child’s perfect,” recalls Seth.
But when Reagan was 2 months old, the family’s pediatrician, Julie Hurlock, M.D., expressed concern about the size and shape of her head. Reagan was referred to Pediatric Neurosurgeon Laurie Ackerman, M.D., at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health. Dr. Ackerman quickly pinpointed the problem: craniosynostosis.
“What Reagan had was early closure of the sagittal suture, that’s the seam that runs from the soft spot (fontanel) to the back of the skull,” explains Dr. Ackerman. “Because that seam closes too soon, the skull won’t allow for lateral expansion.”
Taking in the news that their newborn daughter needed cranial surgery was difficult for Seth and Kata, but Dr. Ackerman helped them cope with the shock. “She was very straightforward but very comforting,” says Seth. “We feel blessed. We love that she got to be Reagan’s neurosurgeon.”
The first call Seth made after learning about his daughter’s diagnosis was to his parents. The second was to his manager at Walmart. As a store co-manager, Seth had always been impressed by his company’s deep commitment to supporting Riley Hospital through Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals fundraising efforts. To date, Walmart and Sam’s Club has raised more than $20.5 million for Riley. “Walmart was invested. They wanted to ensure my daughter was safe,” Seth explains. “It just blew me out of the water how much people cared about my daughter. We are a big family, two million strong.”
Reagan returned to Riley Hospital for her surgery on February 4, 2014. Nurses updated the family in the waiting room throughout the three-hour operation. Finally, the family got the news they were waiting for: surgery was over, and Reagan was doing well. “My father, who was very non-emotional, got up and started crying and hugged the nurse,” recalls Seth. “Then I started crying, and we all went in the ICU to see her.”
The next big hurdle for the family was gaining confidence that they could care for their recovering baby at home. “We were so scared to take her home,” recalls Seth. “We were afraid to touch her. Dr. Ackerman literally picked Reagan up and gave her to my wife and said, ‘You’ve got to hold her.’”
Dr. Ackerman assured the family that even though their baby’s head felt strange and swollen to them, she was healing normally, and they were well-equipped to care for her.
“We want things to go as smoothly as possible when families go home,” says Dr. Ackerman. “It’s important that we instill that confidence in them that, ‘I can do this, I can manage this.’”
Today, going on 3 years old, the only thing startling about Reagan’s appearance is how beautiful she is. With almond-shaped dark brown eyes and a sweet smile, she has drawn attention from a modeling agency. For now, her family’s focus is on watching her blossom and sharing their story with others, including Walmart colleagues, to encourage support for Riley Hospital.
“Miracles happen at Riley,” says Seth. “You see these children, the nurses, doctors, everybody is so happy and smiling. They take care of your child, and put you at ease.”