Meet Kaylyn Sandlin

Leigh Ann and Kenny Sandlin still vividly remember the sound of the helicopter lifting off and landing on the helipad each night of that week, six years ago, when they shared a room at Arkansas Children’s Hospital with their infant daughter, Kaylyn. “After she’d finally fall asleep we would lay there listening to it take off and come back, over and over,” Leigh Ann recalls with fresh wonder. “We were overwhelmed by the realization of how many kids need Children’s and how many kids Children’s serves.”

Kaylyn was just six weeks old when Leigh Ann took her to her pediatrician in Bentonville to find out why she was spitting up so much. “I thought maybe she had acid reflux,” she says, “but as soon as we saw her under the clinic’s florescent lighting, it was very obvious that her skin tone was yellow. The doctor sent for tests and called the Sandlins at home that night. His tone was urgent. He wanted to check Kaylyn into their local hospital immediately. The baby’s bilurubin and liver enzyme counts were off the chart. A week later, no closer to a diagnosis, the family was referred to ACH.

Leigh Ann says nobody had to convince them that it was the best choice. Everything she had ever heard about Arkansas Children’s was positive. Even so, she says, “I didn’t have the appreciation that I do now. You hear how great it is, but you don’t really feel it until you’ve had a child there.”

Some of the most meaningful memories the Sandlins cherish from their experience are the small acts of compassion that felt huge in such a difficult time, like when Kaylyn, who was still breastfed, had to fast for upward of 8 hours. “That was really hard on us,” Leigh Ann remembers. “She was screaming because she was so hungry, and was too little for us to explain why. Nurse Erin came in and offered to take her out in the hall and walk around with her. We said, ‘you don’t mind? She’s just going to keep screaming.’ She said, ‘I don’t mind. I just want to give you a break from hearing it.’ She took her out in the hall and actually got her to calm down and fall asleep. We were so grateful. At the moment it was the greatest act of kindness that we could have imagined.”

And when the Sandlins learned Kaylyn’s diagnosis, bilury artesia—an improperly formed liver--Leigh Ann remembers an intern who thoughtfully tore off a piece of paper and wrote it down for her, so she could begin to grasp what those frightening and unfamiliar words meant.

“The doctors, nurses, and all the staff--they don’t just treat the patient. They really treat the whole family.”

Kaylyn’s surgery was a success. “Within a week we had gone from, ‘we have no idea what’s going on’ to ‘she’s fixed and she’s going home,’ says Leigh Ann. “Which is amazing to me. They’re really good at what they do. I am so grateful how God used ACH.”
Thanks to donors like you, Kaylyn is now an outgoing, exuberant Kindergartner whom her mother says, “has never met a stranger.” Leigh Ann says she also shows remarkable empathy for others when they are in any kind of distress – perhaps a reflection of the care and attention she received at such a critical time.

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