Remembering little Sarah

Fred McCormick

The community support for the family of Sarah Elizabeth Hauser was tremendous and constant during the brief time she spent in this world. It was often the very thing that her parents, David and Crystal, relied on to get them through the unimaginable challenges that arose from Sarah’s battle with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, which took her from them in January.

But it was likely the community itself that benefited the most from Sarah’s nine months of life.

Crystal was 16 weeks pregnant with Sarah when she and David were informed of their daughter’s congenital heart defect. The diagnosis was something that was completely unfamiliar to the couple who already had four healthy children ranging in ages from seven to one at the time.

HLHS is a cardiac malformation in which the left side of the heart does not properly develop. Treatment requires a series of three reconstructive surgeries after birth. Survival rates after the first surgery are around 75%, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

And while the Hausers were offered the option to terminate the pregnancy, Crystal said that was not something they ever really considered.

Facing an uncertain journey the couple documented their experience on a Facebook page titled “Prayers for Sarah Elizabeth,” which invited the support of prayer from their community and beyond. The page attracted thousands of followers.

“It is really important to raise awareness about congenital heart defects,” Crystal said. “It was scary to find out, this was not something we were aware of.”

David said that the outpouring of support that came, both locally and from social media, was “amazing.” Posts on the page reached as many as 750,000 people and the couple received cards and letters from many people that they had never met.

The support from the social media community was comforting for Crystal, who said that spending significant amounts of time in the intensive care unit without knowing that others were keeping the family in their prayers would have been lonely.

“Locally, a lot of people were very helpful. We held her funeral service at First Baptist and we don’t attend First Baptist,” he said. “But they told us we were welcome to have it there and they didn’t charge us. The community has been great.”

The couple met Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen, whose son T.J. was born with HLHS. Olsen and his wife partnered with Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte to form The HEARTest Yard, an organization that provides services for families of children with HLHS.

“We’re very very grateful to them (The HEARTest Yard) and all of the nurses we met through them,” David said. “I mean they came to Sarah’s service and they’re essentially like family to us.”

The ability to bring people together was a theme throughout Sarah’s life. David and Crystal say she had a “happy” personality that people connected with.

“She was remarkable,” Crystal said. “She was such a calm, quiet, sweet baby.”

The Hausers are grateful for the time that they had with Sarah and proud that her story brought an increased awareness to congenital heart defects.

Sarah also strengthened the bond between the Hausers and their community. Crystal and David say they are thankful for the incredible support continues to be strong.

“It really makes you proud of your community,” David said. “The support really has been amazing.”