JOPLIN, Mo. —
Things are looking up on Marigold Drive in a subdivision northwest of Joplin.
It’s now home to the Harper triplets, born May 17, 2011, at Freeman Hospital West to Jayme and Chris Harper.
Because they were born eight weeks early, the three faced many long-term health problems.
But it also meant they escaped the EF-5 tornado that bore down on their Jackson Avenue home on May 22 and leveled it, scattering cribs, diapers and new clothes they never had the chance to wear.
Addison, the feisty one at 1.13 pounds, was born first, followed by Lauren, the more laid-back of the three, weighing 2.2 pounds. Reagan, the last to make an appearance, was the biggest at 3.11 pounds.
Joplin’s Ronald McDonald House would become home for the parents for several weeks until they could find and purchase the home on Marigold Drive. It would be months before they would all sleep under its roof for the first time.
In early July, Reagan was the first to leave Freeman, weighing 6.9 pounds. Addison was next on Aug. 11, weighing 5.7 pounds. But Lauren required multiple surgeries at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City to correct a congenital heart condition, and she wouldn’t come home for good until December.
In the past year, the triplets did what all babies do: They grew, they cut teeth, they began making sounds.
They also did things most babies don’t: They made weekly trips to Kansas City and Springfield to see medical specialists. Their parents keep a three-ring binder of details related to their care, their medications and their appointments. It is now an inch thick.
They all had speech and physical therapy; Lauren relied on a pacemaker and a feeding tube.
Given their most unusual first year, it was fitting that on Thursday, the triplets celebrated their first birthday in a most unusual way. The family members made the rounds to Health Essentials, a medical supply company they came to rely on for their daily needs; the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Freeman, where the babies spent months in recovery; and the Ronald McDonald House.
“You get to know them so well,” Jayme Harper said of those who have helped the family. “They became an extended part of us, and we wanted to show everyone how much the girls have grown and to tell them how much we appreciate all they’ve done for us.”
And then the girls returned home to a birthday present like no other: Joplin Pool & Spa installed an 18-foot-round, above-ground pool in the family’s backyard to accommodate the triplets’ ongoing physical therapy needs.
In visiting with corporate officials last fall, Joplin Pool & Spa salesman Jeffrey Campbell let it be known that he wanted to help the community in some way.
“I told them there’s going to be a story that comes along, and I told them when it does, we’d like to do a pool for them,” he said.
The company agreed.
This spring, Campbell got a call from Jayme Harper, who wanted to know how much pools cost.
“Addison and Lauren have physical therapy each week, and their therapist recommended water,” she said. “Addison has a lot of stiffness, and Lauren was in the hospital bed so long, she doesn’t have the muscle strength she needs.”
When Campbell learned of the circumstances, he knew immediately this was the family he was looking for.
“When we visited, she went through some of the trials and tribulations of the past year,” he said. “I told that to our manufacturer and got a response back almost immediately. We just took it from there.”
Joplin Pool & Spa worked with the Harpers to select what would best fit their needs and space, and Campbell arranged for Carl Junction firefighters to help with the installation.
The complete price tag, which would have been $6,595 for the installed pool, was waived.
“We’re always looking for opportunities to invest time and our ability to help in the community,” Campbell said. “When this particular situation presented itself, it was a perfect opportunity to not only help the parents a little, but also to give the girls something they truly did need to allow them to be closer to home and their comfort zone during their therapy.”
Jayme Harper picked out colorful swimsuits for Reagan, who now weighs 21 pounds, Addison, now 16.10 pounds, and Lauren, who weighs 16.4 pounds.
“I write all their milestones on the calendar; that’s also where I write all our appointments,” their mother said. “Not living at Children’s Mercy is our biggest accomplishment for the past year. We went from six appointments a month to only two or three.”
‘So very lucky’
ON SATURDAY, the Harper triplets will be treated to a birthday party with family and friends, but doing so will require three different cakes.
“ADDISON IS ALLERGIC TO DAIRY, so hers has to be dairy-free,” said their mother, Jayme Harper. “Reagan can have whatever, but Lauren’s speech therapist says she can only have icing. She doesn’t want her eating cake.”
NEXT TUESDAY, she said, the family will pause for a moment to reflect. “I am thinking wow, five days and we’re observing the anniversary of the tornado,” she said. “We were so very lucky. It brings tears to my eyes.”
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Things are looking up on Marigold Drive in a subdivision northwest of Joplin.
- May 2011 Joplin tornado
Farmers Insurance extends tornado recovery commitment
After investments that included stationing a company executive in Joplin for eight months last year, officials with Farmers Insurance said the company will continue its post-tornado commitment to Joplin in 2014. “We’re going to stay until the end,” said Doris Dunn, director of community relations for the company, on Wednesday. “That includes sending in another 100-plus volunteers and making some additional financial investments.”
- SLIDESHOW: One year later, One day of unity, updated Photos from a day of events commemorating the May 22, 2011 tornado anniversary
Author prepares for release of children’s book featuring heroic Joplin rescue dog
Carolyn Mueller is both a dog lover and a storyteller. So when she got the opportunity to write a story about a Joplin dog named Lily who helped search for survivors after the May 2011 tornado, she jumped on it. “Dogs like Lily can be heroes, too,” she said.
VIDEO: Lost photos claim day to be held at museum
National Disaster Photo Rescue and the Joplin Museum Complex have scheduled a public viewing and photo claim day for 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 22, at the museum complex in Schifferdecker Park. The project, originally known as Lost Photos of Joplin, was organized in the weeks after the May 22, 2011, Joplin tornado to reunite storm victims with photos displaced by the storm.
Building-permit total since tornado nears $1 billion
The building of new homes in Joplin continues at an average pace of 16 to 18 per month, according to a building permit report released for December by the city of Joplin. Eighteen building permits for new homes were issued in both November and December. In fiscal year 2013, permits for new homes averaged more than 16 per month.
FEMA official recognized by city
A retiring official of the Federal Emergency Management Agency who directed much of that agency’s response to Joplin’s 2011 tornado was recognized Friday by the city of Joplin. Richard Serino, the deputy administrator of FEMA, was presented a proclamation by Mayor Melodee Colbert-Kean during his last visit to Joplin before he retires on Jan. 23.
Two Joplin men sentenced to two years for tornado fraud
Two Joplin men convicted in separate incidents of disaster fraud related to the May 22, 2011, tornado on Monday were sentenced to two years in federal prison and ordered to pay restitution. Andy Eric Brownlee, 32, was ordered by U.S. District Judge Brian C. Wimes. to pay $2,750 in restitution, and Leslie Lynn Williams, 54, was ordered to pay $1,196 in restitution.
Tornado fund board hears grant requests
Trustees of the Joplin Tornado First Response Fund heard proposals Tuesday from 11 organizations for grant funding. The board is to decide how to spend about $225,000 remaining in the fund in what may be the final round of grants. The fund was established shortly after the 2011 tornado to receive donations from those who wanted to give direct aid to Joplin for recovery.
Joplin community publishes book of tornado experiences
Leaders in the Joplin community have published a collection of stories about the 2011 tornado and the recovery efforts that followed. First-hand accounts for the book, titled “Joplin Pays It Forward,” were written by city and school leaders; officials from health care centers and public utility companies; leaders in the business and media communities; representatives of churches and nonprofit organizations; and individuals with federal, state and local disaster relief groups and agencies.
New fire stations being readied for opening
After 2 1/2 years in temporary quarters as a result of the 2011 Joplin tornado, firefighter crews are moving into newly built replacement stations ahead of schedule. Firefighters last week began preparing a new Station No. 2 at 2825 W. Junge Blvd. for occupancy. It replaces a station at 2216 S. Maiden Lane that was destroyed in the tornado.
- More May 2011 Joplin tornado Headlines
- Farmers Insurance extends tornado recovery commitment