Columbia couple turns heartbreak into hope

Columbia couple turns heartbreak into hope

COLUMBIA, MS (WDAM) - "We actually met in high school. My senior year, his junior year and we have been together ever since," Laura Anderson said.

David and Laura Anderson couldn't help but smile at each other when they reminisced about how they met while they sat at their dining room table at their home in Columbia. The high school sweethearts married in 2007, and found out they were expecting their first and only child July 2013.

"I tried to call him, I emailed him and I texted him, I facebooked him to try to get the message to him to call me right away, Laura said. "He did, and I said, 'I think I'm pregnant! It said positive!' He said,'Go buy another test and make sure!'"

David Anderson recalled his wife having an ideal first trimester.

"People told me she's going to be crazy, she's going to be cranky, she's going to be not feeling good, all this stuff. She never was any of that," David said.

The couple says the calm of the first trimester ended during a doctor's appointment. Laura was 19 weeks pregnant.

"We were having the ultrasound where we were going to find out the sex of the baby. It was a girl!," Laura said.

They said after the routine ultrasound the doctor wanted to take more pictures, but this time of the baby's diaphragm. Laura said after the doctor had a chance to study the pictures, he gave them life changing news.

"We think that your baby has a condition called Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia," Laura said.

Five days later, specialists at Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children, confirmed their baby girl, Sela Marie Anderson had CDH.

"It is actually a hole in your diaphragm and your diaphragm separates your abdominal organs from your chest cavity," Laura said. "Most of her abdominal organs were protruded into her chest cavity and that prevented her lungs from forming properly and it pushed her heart to the right side of her body."

Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children Pediatric Surgeon, Barry Berch, was one of 13 doctors and medical staff needed to treat the baby.

"Many times it's about a 50 percent survival in those cases," Berch said.

Dr. Berch said the survival rate of Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia is 65 percent nationally, but Sela's was 50/50 from the start. He added in one year, the children's hospital sees six to 10 mother's carrying babies with CDH, and doctors don't' know how or why this condition happens.

The Anderson's became a part of those statistics on March 14, 2014, when Sela Marie Anderson was born.

"As soon as she was born, one of the doctors came up and said, 'Look this is a little bit worse condition than we anticipated. It's going to be probably the worst thing you have ever gone through," David said.

Sela's treatment started immediately.

"We use a technology called ECMO, Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation, It's basically like heart, lung bypass for a baby," Berch said.

Dr. Berch remembers Sela had several procedures. They repaired her diaphragm, but she suffered from pulmonary hypertension and her condition worsened.

"If that lung is just too small, and those blood vessels in the lung didn't form right, we just can't ever get her to a point where we can get her off of the ECMO machine," Berch said.

Sela Maria Anderson lived for 23 days.

"It was Sunday morning, April 6, we held her until she passed," Laura said.

David and Laura said that was the first and only time they got to hold their baby.

On March 28, 2015 at 9 a.m., the Anderson's will celebrate their baby girl with a 5k run/walk and fun run for kids.

The 5k will take place at Friendship Park in Columbia. They said this is their way of raising awareness of CDH, and remembering their daughter.

They added the proceeds raised will be split between CHERUBS, the Association of Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia Research, and Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children.

The Anderson's said if anyone would like to volunteer, sponsor or register for the run they can do so anytime, even on the day of the 5k. Email for more information or go to