Ross Courtemanche

Hero. What is a Hero?  Typically, a hero is a parent, a role model, a public figure or a professional athlete.  My hero is my daughter Gracyn Anna Courtemanche.  Gracyn’s life is one of inspiration, bravery and strength.  I would love to share Gracyn’s story with you.  I hope that her story will inspire you to be a Hero in someone’s life.

Born on July 2nd 2011, Gracyn was brought into this world 6 weeks ahead of schedule by emergency C-section.  At 3lbs 12oz she was a fragile little one.  When Gracyn was born she was brought directly to x-ray to find out why she was so early.  The doctor’s quickly found out that her esophagus was not attached to her stomach (Esophageal Atresia).  At that time the doctor’s advised us that Gracyn will be transferred to a Level 1 neonatal intensive care unit about an hour away from home.   Upon Gracyn’s arrival she underwent extensive testing and x-rays.  During this time it was discovered that Gracyn also had a “massive” hole in her heart.  For the next 3 months Gracyn would be in the NICU facing a steep uphill climb.

During Gracyn’s time in the NICU she had 3 major surgeries and countless minor surgeries and procedures.  First, she had to undergo many procedures to stretch her esophagus to a point where the doctors could surgically sew it together.  Two weeks after that surgery, she went in for open heart surgery.  As we found out and many of you might not be aware but when someone has to go in for an open heart surgery, the heart has to be stopped.  Why?  Because the doctor’s cannot operate on a beating heart.  They explained that Gracyn would be hooked up to a bypass machine that will oxygenate her blood to keep her alive during the surgery.   Second, they break open her sternum and then coat her heart with a medicine that will slowly stop her heart from beating.  Working on heart the size of walnut, the doctor’s where able to patch the hole.  However, Gracyn’s recovery was not easy.  The next day my wife noticed she was struggling to breath, we called the nurses in and they discovered that her left lung had collapsed.  Thankfully, the medical team was able to fix her lung rather quickly and she could continue her long road to recovery.

After many days, weeks and months Gracyn was cleared to go home on October 15th, 2011.  However her story does not end there.

Christmas 2013, we visit the cardiologist for Gracyn to be cleared for surgery on her eardrums.  We were very surprised when the doctor’s returned and said Gracyn is not cleared and that she will not be leaving the hospital because the pressures in heart were dangerously high.  The next morning Gracyn was wheeled back in for another open heart surgery.  This one was a lot more difficult to handle.  Gracyn was 3 years old at the time and she knew what was happening.  She must have been so scared.  The doctor’s gave her a sedative to help relax her.  The surgery went very well and in less than two days Gracyn was cleared and able to return home.

Gracyn has many food allergies as well as hearing loss and in her right ear and corrective lenses for vision.  You would never know that she has been through so much in her life by looking at her or being around her. Gracyn is a fun, energetic, friendly, caring and free spirited person.  She is also very independent and can be a little stubborn at times.

The HERO fund was there for me and my family when we needed it most.  We received a medical out of work grant to support us with the lost wages due to time we needed to be caring for Gracyn when she came out of the hospital.  The assistance they provided helped give us piece of mind during this very trying time.  This is truly the first time my family and I are able to say thank you to everyone in the Hamra Enterprises organization who CHOOSE to donate and help one another.

Sincerely, Ross Courtemanche

General Manager, Chicago Bread

Carpentersville, IL Café 4091