By David McLain
The 4-year-old daughter of a Baylor graduate student recently underwent a life-saving heart surgery, and Baylor Nation can surround her family Monday for a public celebration and fundraiser at Shorty’s Pizza Shack.
Leah Grace Parker is the daughter of Ross Parker, a graduate student in the philosophy department.
She was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy at birth, which is a heart muscle condition that results in the heart growing to a life-threateningly large size.
In late February 2010, Ross was told by the Children’s Medical Center in Dallas that Leah needed a full heart transplant.
On Sept. 8 of this year, Leah underwent a successful transplant. Many of Parker’s friends at Baylor have been praying for their situation for the past year and want to celebrate the surgery and the new phase of life that Leah and the family have entered.
Logan Gage, Ross’ fellow graduate student, has known the family since Ross started at Baylor in the fall of 2009, and said he has been continually impressed by the way the Parkers handle this tragic situation.
“The Parkers are amazing,” Gage said. “They have a constant concern for their daughter, while still remaining incredibly calm. You can tell they are really relying on God.”
Gage credits his wife with the idea for the fundraiser. Though they were ecstatic about how well the surgery went, she realized that post-surgery life does not mean life without medical expenses. So Elizabeth Gage combined her desire to celebrate with Leah’s supporters and her desire to raise money for the Parkers’ future.
Thus, the party at Shorty’s was born.
“It’s obviously a wonderful thing that she got the heart, but we want to recognize that there is still a need,” Logan said.
The fundraiser will last from noon until 10 p.m. The $20 suggested ticket donation at the door includes two slices of pizza and a beverage to toast to Leah’s health. Other menu items are also available for purchase.
“We were wanting to drink a toast to Leah and we wanted to include all of her supporters into it,” Elizabeth said.
Supporters of Leah range from organizations around town to students at Baylor.
“We wanted to make it an affordable event for graduate students and undergrads, without compromising the intent of helping the Parkers. We realize money is tight for all of us,” Logan said.
All the money raised from the party on Monday night will go toward a Children’s Organ Transplant Association fund set up to help pay for Leah’s post-surgery medications.
“We need at least $75,000 to cover the medicines Leah will be on for the rest of her life. So far we’ve raised $45,000,” Logan said.
Leah was released from the hospital in Dallas just last week, and the family is staying at a Ronald McDonald House near the hospital. They may remain there for the next three months, since Leah needs to be near the hospital as her immune system redevelops, Logan said.
The Parkers themselves will still be in Dallas on Monday.
“We’re hoping Leah, Katie and I will be able to Skype in and say ‘hey’ to everyone at the party,” Ross Parker wrote on his blog.
The Gages expect a quite a turnout for the Parkers to see from their computer screen.
“This may be the biggest party I ever throw,” Elizabeth said.