by Kay Stellpflug
With pregnancy comes all the joys and anxieties a couple can experience. With the added challenge of medical complications, those joys are tempered with worry and prayer. For Gina and Josh Parpart, the joys and anxieties culminated with the birth of a daughter who was diagnosed with Turner Syndrome.
The Parparts were told early in their pregnancy that their baby girl had little chance of surviving a nine month pregnancy. With that daunting information looming over their heads, they began their research and their prayers.
Gina started looking up everything she could find about Turner Syndrome and what she found was not comforting. “I would Google search Turner Syndrome and type in 25 weeks along (or however far along I was) and look for success stories, but I only found one. It was so hard to read, and I would cry. A lot of people think I am very strong, but my truth is that inside I am pretty much mush.”
Mush is not what you think of when talking with Gina Parpart. Her life has unfolded with a series of deliberate decisions and an energy level that kept her moving. She played three sports in high school and lettered ten times. She loved riding horses, being outdoors, and she loved art and graduated from UW Madison with a fine arts degree. Her animation about school, travel, and careers is only surpassed by her passion to educate people about Turner Syndrome and help her two daughters become the healthiest people they can be.
Turner Syndrome is a chromosomal condition that affects only girls and women and is caused by complete or partial absence of the X chromosome. TS affects one out of every 2,500 births and accounts for approximately 25% of all miscarriages. When diagnosed in the womb, chances of surviving to birth are 1-2%.
Gracelyn Noelle was born on February 1, 2014 and weighed in at 5 pounds 8 ounces. She entered the world needing a coartation repair of the aorta. She was affected with a hip dislocation at birth and was in a spica cast for three months that literally covered her whole body. “We had a special car seat for her,” said Gina, “but the cast was heavy and Gracie was so uncomfortable. That made it difficult to go anywhere.”
She also has a horseshoe-shaped kidney, which means the kidneys are fused together and sit in front of her body rather than in back. This makes her subject to more serious injuries. Physical issues and growth are impaired and time will tell if speech is delayed or if spacial relationships are a problem. The Parparts are optimistic and have no doubt about Gracie living a full and happy life.
Cheryll and Ron Thompson have been neighbors since Gina bought the house in 2007 and are now like second grandparents to Gracie and Arabella. Since the beginning of their friendship, Cheryll and Ron were amazed by the passion and serious work ethic Gina had.
“It did not surprise us when she was unwavering in her positive outlook when she was pregnant. Despite what they learned about Turner Syndrome, Gina and Josh never gave up on their belief that Bella would have a very special baby sister,” said Cheryll. According to the Parparts, Gracie adores Bella and Bella is amazing with Gracie.
Gina Parpart had a busy life before marriage and children that included teaching and a lawn care job that allowed her to be creative as well as spend time outdoors. She even bought a home and replaced the roof herself. The Thompsons said they couldn’t believe Gina was up there on the roof doing the renovations herself.
Going from art to lawn care to even considering becoming a veterinarian, Gina’s enthusiasm knew no bounds. Starting her own lawn care business was her next step, but she began thinking about marriage and a family as well.
“In the summer of 2010 I met my husband, Josh. It was on the Fourth of July in Columbus, and I knew I would be marrying him. You could say there were fireworks, just like in the movies. I brought him home to meet my parents the next day, and he proposed six months later. He is completely the opposite of me, but that’s why I think it works. He is calm and quiet, and probably would never get a speeding ticket.”
I had been told it would be difficult to get pregnant, since I had some health issues including endometriosis. Well, nine months after we got married we had our first daughter, Arabella. When Arabella was one year old we learned I was pregnant with our second child.”
During that time Gina was growing her lawn care business and tending bar at two different locations. But growing a baby became her prime focus once they received the Turner Syndrome diagnosis. Gracelyn Noelle Parpart was born on February 1st, 2014.
As a couple, their number one focus was to stay healthy and keep their daughters and themselves as free from chemicals, additives, and any related non-natural exposures as they could. With Gracie’s health compromised, they were determined to take every precaution. This led to job changes and some life decisions.
Gina decided to go back to her first love, art. When she decided to start the Color on Canvas classes, there were already others doing them, but with her business background and her determination the classes have taken off. “I like bringing the arts back into the smaller communities with small classes and personalized attention,” said Parpart. “I want to branch out to Color on Wood and Color on Paper. Painting nights for adults are fun, but I want to offer classes for children, too.”
“The other reason this fits so perfectly into our lives is that I want to donate ten percent of all proceeds from the classes to the Ronald McDonald House and to the Turner Syndrome Society for research.”
She is determined to grow her art business. This will allow her to continue her work, continue her research and education about Turner Syndrome, and spend time with the girls.
“If you go to www.turnersyndrome.org you will see that the symbol for TS is a butterfly. This is because they are fragile and beautiful miracles. I didn’t know this when I had already decorated her nursery with butterfly décor. She is indeed our miracle baby.”
Josh Parpart put it this way: “Two years ago the doctors told us she would never step foot on this earth. Now every day I come home from work and she walks up to me with a big smile and hugs me. Watching her get past all these obstacles is truly inspirational. My perspective on life has been brought into a new light. Not a day goes by that we don’t think of how blessed we are to have her in our lives. Her smile is contagious. She has affected so many people in a positive way.”
Gina adds, “Since Gracie was born, my whole life’s path has changed. I am learning so much about myself and about the world.” And the world around her gets to learn and change as well.