At only six months old, Parker Knutti has been through more than most, and her parents, Catherine and Michael are preparing for the next step in her health journey that will change Parker’s life.
Doctors knew right away that she was different when she was born on Jan. 31.
Parker was born with a foot deformity and a mild range of spina bifida.
It has felt devastating and helpless for her parents knowing that before she even reaches a year old, she will have to do undergo a foot amputation and a spinal surgery.
“It was all very overwhelming. It took me a while to process everything,” said Catherine.
When Parker was just three days old, they were referred to a pediatric orthopedic doctor at UNC, and shortly after, they agreed on a treatment plan.
She spent the first weeks of her life with a cast on her foot all the way to her thigh in hopes of turning her foot around. It’s turned in instead of flat.
Once a week, her family traveled to UNC to remove the cast and check on her foot. Four weeks passed, and there was no change.
Her doctor brought in an orthopedic surgeon, and after tests, X-rays and getting an assessment, they found out Parker was born without an ankle joint.
“At this point, we basically had two options,” said Catherine.
Doctors informed them they could fuse bones together to try to give her a chance at walking, but she would spend most of her life in and out of doctor’s appointments and would have to have multiple surgeries.
Her mom said she would be in a “lifetime of pain” with that option, or they could amputate giving her a chance at a “normal life.
“The answer was obvious. Michael and I didn’t want to watch our girl grow up in and out of doctor’s offices and always in pain. My worst fear when the whole process started was the ‘A’ word. As a mother you just want what’s best for your child, and unfortunately this was the best decision,” said Catherine.
After one of those casting appointments, they also were recommended to a neurosurgeon. Multiple x-rays, MRIs and ultrasounds confirmed that Parker has a tethered spinal cord and a mass attached to her spinal cord as well.
“We were told surgical intervention was needed to remove the mass and un-tether her spinal cord at around 6 months old,” said Catherine.
Now Parker has an appointment on Aug. 4 to complete her foot amputation and spinal surgery, all in the same day.
Knowing that those two surgeries will have to be performed on the same day has been emotional, nerve wrecking, stressful and given feelings of helplessness, for her parents.
Originally they had planned to do her spinal surgery in August and then her foot amputation towards the end of the year, but after talking to her orthopedic and neurosurgeons, they decided to move forward with both on the same day.
Parker is the youngest of three daughters, and even at only 6 months old, her parents say she has the “best little personality,” “the biggest smile that will brighten anyone’s day,” and she loves to giggle.
With these surgeries, and a prosthetic to follow, her parents hope to give her “as normal of a life as possible.”
They hope to see her crawl, pull up and walk somewhat on time, just as they saw her sisters do.
Having three girls, Catherine said she wouldn’t trade her days for anything else in the world.
“I never thought growing up I would be a mom of three girls who each have their own very different personalities but everyday I am reminded just how lucky I am,” she said.
Right now, Parker’s foot doesn’t effect her day-to-day life too much, and moving forward, her parents can’t wait to look back and watch as she has a “meaningful life” where she can grow up to be whatever she wants – just the same as with their other two daughters.
“We want them to live happy healthy lives. It’s so cliché I know but one of our biggest hopes for them is that they know how much we love them. We will always be their biggest fans,” said Catherine.
As the days of Parker’s surgeries near, several friends and family have stepped up to help the Knutti family with various fundraisers including creating a GoFundMe page.
Friends Blair Lloyd and Brooke Barksdale teamed up to create the online fundraiser. Lloyd met Catherine this year when both of their children started attending pre-K, and the two clicked.
“Catherine is the type of person who would give you the shirt off of her back. They never really asked for the help, but I felt like it would be a good thing,” said Lloyd, who explained how Catherine and Parker both have become such a huge part of her life.
Barksdale also offered to accept donations from individuals who weren’t comfortable donating online.
More than a thousand dollars has been raised so far on GoFundMe, and the Knutti family is more than grateful.
“This has been a challenging time for us, and we can’t say thank you enough to everyone that has donated so far and for your generosity. We are so lucky to live in a town that always comes together and looks out for those who are in need,” said Catherine.
She also wanted to say thank you to all of her friends, family members and doctors who have supported them during this time.
“They have been here for us since Parker was born and helped out in anyway they could and are continuing to help us. The next couple of months are going to be trying but with family and friends like ours and the support and prayers of everyone else, we will make it through,” Catherine concluded.
The GoFundMe to support the Knutti family can be found on the website by searching, “Spinal Surgery and Foot Amputation for Parker.”