Sunday, May 31, 2009
Saturday, May 30, 2009
A year ago, Micheala Blanton was dreaming of her baby's first birthday and how they would celebrate.
That was before her son, Tye, was born prematurely and with serious health problems. It was before her husband, State Trooper David Shawn Blanton Jr., was shot and killed during a traffic stop.
It was before Tye died.
But Blanton still plans to celebrate Tye's birthday with a party and fundraiser for the Tye Blanton Foundation 2-5:30 p.m. Sunday at the Maggie Valley Country Club to benefit babies and parents at the Mission neonatal intensive care unit.
Participants are asked to bring birthday presents — preemie clothing and blankets, and things parents need — to be given to Mission Hospital's neonatal intensive care unit.
“Being Tye's mom was the best thing I've done in my life,” Blanton said. “Celebrating his birthday with the community makes me feel like I'm still a mom. That's how I spend time with Tye.”
Tye died in October, four months to the day after his father.
In the public eye
Blanton has been in the public eye since the death of her husband, and people across Western North Carolina have offered prayers and support throughout the last year.
She hopes to use that publicity to help others whose babies were born too soon or are critically ill and who aren't in the public eye. Her goal now, she said, is to raise awareness and help parents and babies in the NICU.
“Nobody plans to have a preemie,” she said. “We all plan for a healthy baby, and not everybody in the NICU has the support of the community like I had.”
Many parents of sick babies are low-income and don't have health insurance. Many travel an hour or more to the hospital. Some babies are born to drug-addicted parents who don't or can't visit them.
“They need so much,” Blanton said. “I just want to help them.”
Blanton didn't know how sick Tye was until he was born with a rare heart condition. The sonograms didn't pick it up. He couldn't have corrective surgery until he reached 5 pounds, and he weighed about 2 pounds when he was born seven weeks early.
She was in the NICU with Tye when she got word her husband had been shot.
Bringing people together
Blanton has turned her grief into something positive, said her friend Lara Feinberg, also the wife of a state trooper.
“I know if she can get up in the morning, I can, too,” Feinberg said. “If she can do something positive, I want to do it with her.”
Blanton said she does OK most days, but Mother's Day was particularly difficult.
“Last year, I thought I would spend it with my baby and my husband, and this year I don't have either,” she said.
Having a celebration on Tye's birthday will help her get through the day.
The Blanton family's tragedy brought the wives of state troopers closer together, Feinberg said. The board of the Tye Blanton Foundation is composed largely of women whose husbands are troopers.
Sunday's event will be a chance for people to join the foundation for $10 and a promise to volunteer for three hours during the coming year (the event itself counts).
“Of course, even if you don't want to volunteer, you can write a check for the foundation,” Feinberg said.
The foundation was started by Blanton and her sister-in-law, Shea Layman.
“I had been wanting to do something even before Tye died,” Layman said. “Tye was in bad shape, but as bad as it was, he had the support of a family and the community, and a lot of babies and their families didn't.”
They started by collecting items from Haywood County schools: new preemie clothing, new blankets for the babies, gasoline cards, restaurant gift certificates, movie passes and gift cards to Wal-Mart and Target.
“We have to make sure anything for the babies is new,” Blanton said. “They're so vulnerable to infection.”
Large numbers of outfits and blankets are needed because every time clothing and blankets get wet, they have to be changed.
The items for parents help them to get out and relax a bit, and help them pay for the gasoline to go back and forth.
“When your baby is in the NICU, you want to be there with him, but you need to get out a little bit,” Blanton said. “The food at Mission is fine, but you need to get out of that building.”
Blanton said she also wants to put baskets with full-size shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant and other toiletries in each of the six parent sleepover rooms.
“We're starting small,” Blanton said. “But I don't believe we'll stay that way.”