2013 Year in Review. November. The Isaac and Christopher Campbell Story.
"30 Features in 30 Days". Meet the Campbell Family. (l-r) Christopher, Brian, Jennifer and Isaac. Read their remarkable story on how their faith helped them overcome two premature babies who are growing up to be fine young men.
AVON: When you first meet Isaac and Christopher Campbell, both ages five and a half, you are drawn to them in a way you can’t explain.
The joy you see in their eyes is mesmerizing, their curiosity running at full speed.
These two little men, sons of a pair of remarkable parents who simply don’t know the meaning of giving up, have a story to tell that will make you hug your little (or big) ones a little tighter while reminding you that powers that we don’t always understand are hard at work each and every day.
I first met Brian “Soup” Campbell (not sure if anyone still calls him that, think it was an inside reporters nickname) when I was doing some freelance work in Torrington and his personality and how he went about his business made him an instant favorite around the office.
Back then, I would bring snacks in from Frito Lay for the boys and girls in the office and they would be devoured within minutes, I think somebody licked the box a couple of times but we’re not going there.
Campbell would move on from Torrington by getting his foot in the door at the ‘World Wide’ leader, ESPN in Bristol. He is now one of the top boxing analyst and a rising star throughout the boxing world.
He was also named top in-studio guest by the crew at the LCS radio program on WAPJ in Torrington.
Guy knows his job and is passionate about it.
He would meet his bride Jennifer via the old web-site, My Space where they made a date for dinner on May 7th of 2006 and were married exactly one year later on May 7th of 2007.
By September, the couple was expecting and the future looked bright with Brian at ESPN and Jennifer working for The Hartford.
Life was about to throw them a Mount Everest-type challenge that would test their strength, faith and courage every second for the foreseeable future.
The day before a friend’s wedding in early February, Jennifer went into very, very early labor.
25-weeks in kind of labor, not what anybody wanted or expected.
The nearest hospital was in New Britain so off they went to a place that wasn’t equipped to handle premature babies this young but it was time.
Two incredibly small young men came into this world on February 2, 2008 and were not given much hope of survival from the start.
Isaac weighed in at just two pounds, one ounce while Christopher was just one pound, eleven ounces.
Thinks about that for a minute. Not even four pounds between them.
This is the part of the story where faith enters the picture, a pure believe system that exudes from both parents in a way that meant they would at no point give up on the precious gifts they had been given.
“We were told by the doctors that there was a good chance that they would not make it,” Brian said. “It was all so surreal because you just were not prepared for any of this.”
The boys were transferred to the UConn Medical Center in Farmington the next day
At first, Christopher, who has beautiful eyes that curiously soak up everything he sees around him, was the son who got off to a rough start while Isaac was holding his own.
“Christopher had severe respiratory issues, minor brain bleeds, minor intestine infections and minor kidney failure,” his mother recalled. “Typical preemie conditions. Isaac was healthy but for a tiny hole in his heart.”
However, the medicine used to heal the heart caused an intestinal infection that forced doctors to remove 86 centimeters of his intestines.
“We were told Isaac would need a liver and intestine transplant to survive,” Jennifer said. ‘On top of that they said he had developed two of the worst brain bleeds you could have and that they could cause him to have cerebral palsy. He would never walk, never talk, and never recognize us.”
The roller coaster was just beginning for the Avon family as month later, both boys were moved to the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford.
For little Isaac, the removal of the large portion of his intestines meant he would have to be fed through an intravenous feeding tube that had a dire drawback. It kills the liver.
The family was told that they had never seen a child in his state survive and that the family may be better off taking him home and have a good month with him before he passed away from liver failure.
“We were at a crossroads,” Brian said. “We had to decide if we were all in with our faith and believe that Isaac was going to make it. There could not be any doubt, we had to give everything we had to him.”
The determination of the family was buoyed by a support network that stretched throughout the area. Prayer groups formed and parishes from Connecticut to Massachusetts and beyond rallied behind these two babies.
“I heard from a colleague that a woman had gotten up in her church in Massachusetts and asked if the congregation could pray for these little boys in Connecticut,” Brian said.
It was decided that the party wasn’t over for little Isaac, they would find an answer and it came after a search on google showed the Children’s Hospital in Boston has an experimental treatment that just night work on him.
“It uses fish oil in the IV,” Jennifer explained. “It doesn’t hurt the liver.”
That may have solved one problem but a bigger issue still loomed. Without ninety percent of his intestines, it would be impossible for Isaac to ever digest food.
An operation was scheduled on his intestines with little hope of having much success but the families believe system refused to give in.
“I would ask the doctors constantly if Isaac’s intestines could grow back,” Brian said. “Every time they would say no, it’s impossible.”
You can imagine the smile on both of their faces when the doctors open up Isaac and report back that yes, indeed, the intestines had grown back.
“There is no way he should be able to digest food,” Brian said. “But he is such a fighter that he doesn’t give up.”
The fish oil had a second and even more profound effect on Isaac’s brain, it stopped the two severe bleeds that were threatening everything in his survival.
“Isaac has just one quarter of his brain functioning, the right side,” Jennifer said. “But the right side is taking over for the left side and the only effects he has is a little bit of Cerebral Palsy in his right hand and right leg.”
You wouldn’t know it though from his active sports schedule that includes soccer, gymnastics and taekwondo.
Christopher himself has had some serious challenges along the way including a potentially dangerous esophagus stretching operation that started at his collarbone and ended at his belly.
“As the surgeons started the operation, they came out and told us that all they had to do was connect the esophagus,” Jennifer said. “It had grown back.”
All this is going on while Christopher was just three pounds.
How does one explain all these things?
The Campbell’s steadfastly believe each boy has been the recipient of several miracles and that their faith has helped them take their boys from the brink to where they are today.
In all, Isaac spent the first eight months of his life in the hospital, Christopher four.
There have been and will be challenges along the way for this family.
Through it all, they rely on a faith that hasn’t failed them yet, even the names of the boys carry special meaning.
Isaac means “to laugh’ while Christopher means ‘strength’
At five and a half, as they proudly told me, both boys are attending kindergarten and doing things most kids their age do.
You can’t help but to feel uplifted when you leave the Campbell household which sits on Lovely Street, of course it does. It fits.
If you ever are lucky enough to meet them, shake their hands and get a solid high or low five from Isaac and Christopher.
They are two mighty special young men with two pretty terrific parents.