In 2004, Mark and Heather Moorman were young parents living in Corydon, Iowa, with their two little girls, Sammie and Sarah, and expecting their third child. Two weeks before the baby was to be born, doctors told the Moormans that something was terribly wrong. They said the baby Heather was carrying had something called holoprosencephaly – a disorder in which the forebrain of the embryo fails to develop into two hemispheres – as well as hydrocephalus – water on the brain. Doctors said the baby most likely would not survive the birthing process and if the baby lived, it would only be for a short period of time and would never see, hear, speak, walk or anything else. There was basically no hope given by doctors for the child to have any quality of life, if the baby survived at all.
On August 19, 2004, Suzanne Grace Moorman was born. She definitely had many health issues and didn’t look like other babies. Her head was much larger, proportionately, than her tiny body. The Moormans were again told that the baby had no brain activity and that she would likely die within the next few days, weeks or months at the most. Heather shared that after two weeks at home crying and sobbing every day and just waiting for their baby to die, she decided that she had had enough! She and her husband decided to be proactive and research all they could find on holoprosencephaly and hydrocephalus and what they could do for their little daughter. She found that the local Area Education Agency had something called “Early ACCESS” with professionals and services that could possibly benefit their little girl. For the first several months, the Moormans had Hospice representatives in their home helping to prepare them for the loss of little Suzie when the time came, as well as AEA Early ACCESS therapists who were working with the family to provide services that could determine what Suzie might actually be able to do.
In October of 2004, when Suzie was 1 ½ months old, a shunt was placed in her head to allow the water to drain from around her brain releasing the pressure and allowing her brain to expand. The shunt basically saved her life and made it possible for her to begin to develop. Her parents placed Suzie in the Preschool program housed in the Wayne Elementary School when she was three years old. Her first teacher was Carla Duckworth who continues to teach at Wayne.
“When Suzie came to us, she couldn’t hold her head up; it was still much larger than her body could support,” said Ms. Duckworth. “I had no idea what she would be able to learn and do, but we treated her just like the rest of the students in the class. She began to communicate and learn to do the same things that her classmates could do.”
Now, seven years later, Suzie has made remarkable progress and is referred to as “our little miracle” by the teachers and administrators in the Wayne Community School District. Suzie is included in Mrs. Larisa Allen’s first grade classroom with the assistance of paraprofessional, Carissa Cobb. She participates in regular class activities, including physical education, and is even reading at grade level. Suzie receives services in the special education room, with Ms. Lisa Fry, focusing on individualized math skills, phonics, spelling and fine motor skills. Suzie has a large vocabulary and quite a sense of humor. Her favorite color is yellow and she likes to draw. She enjoys using the computer and can easily work her way through applications on an iPad. Her body is beginning to catch up to her larger head size and a focus this year is for her to walk on her own. Balance is still an issue, but she is making progress every day. Each day Suzie exhibits new abilities that are not expected … miracles definitely happen every day for her, for her family and for the staff at Wayne Elementary!
Throughout the year, Heather and Suzie visit all of the classrooms at Wayne Elementary, talking about ‘differences’ and helping students understand how everyone is different in some way. Suzie’s sister, Sammie who is now 11-years-old, created a poster for 4H that hangs in the school hallway depicting and describing Suzie’s life and issues. Sarah, Suzie’s sister who is now 9 years old, wrote a short story about Suzie recently. Suzie was crowned Princess at this year’s Wayne County Fair. She and her family are a blessing to the Corydon community.
Heather, is not only an advocate for for her daughter, Suzie; she is involved in many organizations to help other parents and children with disabilities. She serves as a Parent as Presenters representative and is Vice-Chair of the State Early ACCESS Organization. She is also a classroom associate, serving a student with down syndrome at Wayne Elementary. Heather shared that she knows that Suzie would not be where she is today and functioning as highly as she is, if it weren’t for the wonderful folks at Great Prairie AEA and the staff at Wayne Elementary. She credits Principal Denise Becker and the whole teaching staff at the Elementary for the unconditional support they have given her family.
“When Suzie has a seizure or needs to go to the hospital on the spur of the moment, an emergency plan kicks in,” said Heather. “My responsibilities at school are covered and others help with Sammie and Sarah and needs at our home. No questions asked. It’s wonderful!”
Heather shared that, through the work of the AEA, partnering with the school and her family, Suzie has grown so much, and she is beginning to think about what the future holds for Suzie and believes the possibilities are limitless.
Click here to watch “Miracles Happen Every Day,” a short video about Suzie Moorman’s story.