MILTON-FREEWATER — A family in Milton-Freewater is holding a pumpkin patch fundraiser for multiple weeks to support a struggling infant girl.
Parker Rakestraw has suffered from brain damage since she was born in May. She is the daughter of Mikayla and Kyle Rakestraw.
Mikayla Rakestraw, a hair stylist from Milton-Freewater, received an emergency flight to Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital in Spokane when her water broke at 26 weeks.
“I was kind of in shock,” Rakestraw said. “I didn’t pack a bag. I didn’t know what to expect. I should have known I was having a baby, but I didn’t think it was happening.”
Doctors placed Rakestraw on bed rest for 12 days while they monitored her unborn daughter. Then, she went into labor, but doctors told her she had an infection. At around 1 a.m., they decided she would need an emergency cesarean section. Her husband still was at home.
“It was definitely scary,” she said. “And he was definitely disappointed that he wouldn’t make it.”
Parker was born at just 2 pounds, 8 ounces and a tic more than 14 inches in length. The hospital placed her into its neonatal intensive care unit, where for 18 hours she had to breath with a ventilator. After nine days, doctors conducted a routine brain ultrasound and found her brain was bleeding.
A few days later, the bleeding had worsened and her head had grown. Doctors determined she had developed hydrocephalus, and the blood pressure touching her brain had killed portions of her brain matter. She learned how to drink from a bottle while in the NICU.
Now, Rakestraw said, little Parker still doesn’t know how to take a bottle.
Parker has undergone two procedures, one for the brain bleed and another to place a permanent shunt in her brain that drains fluid. The family goes to regular doctors visits to ensure Parker’s shunt is working well and she is stable.
“It was scary,” she said. “I always thought I would have a normal delivery, like my first. So this was definitely scary — the unknown.”
Kelsey Hendricks, a bookkeeper in Milton-Freewater, heard about the Rakestraw’s situation and knew she wanted to help out. A year before, her family held a pumpkin patch fundraiser for a young boy with cancer, helping the family pay for expenses such as medical bills and fuel. They even helped purchase iPads for the family’s sons so they could chat while the young boy was undergoing chemotherapy.
So she decided to do the same thing for the Rakestraws.
“We always try to gear it towards a kid,” said Hendricks, who has three boys and a fourth child on the way.
On a clear Saturday, Oct. 9, people wandered around the pumpkin patch through knee-high vines. Volunteers and family members handed out clippers for people to cut pumpkins off the vines and helped carry them back across the uneven ground. White, green and orange pumpkins were loaded into all-terrain vehicles and carted to the checkout.
The Rakestraws chatted with people in the field. Mikayla carried Parker around the grounds as her daughter Blakely bounced around. Youths from McLoughlin High School’s FFA program helped maneuver pumpkins.
Hendricks said the fundraisers also benefit her sons.
“It teaches them to give back and not be so greedy with money,” she said, “and to give to charities and to see the light of the people you give it to.”
Rakestraw said she sincerely appreciates the fundraiser, but added that such generosity is overwhelming. She said she and her husband are not very good at accepting help, and she doesn’t feel like she deserves it.
“I don’t know how to describe the feeling,” she said. “We’re very grateful, but also I feel bad that we are in need of help.”
Hendricks said the family plans to keep the patch open for a few more weekends to raise more money. The patch is at 84978 Edwards Road, Milton-Freewater.
East Oregonian reporter Ben Lonergan contributed to this story.