After 10 years together, Kelly Ayers and Eric Patterson got the surprise of a lifetime when they were chosen as the next Gifted Wedding couple. Kelly and Eric have shared more together in one decade than many couples face all their lives.

They met while working at a printing company in 2001. Kelly says, giggling at the memory, “Eric was very sweet, he would bring me sodas”. They were quickly a couple and a few months later were shocked to find they were going to be parents.

Eric proposed to Kelly and their daughter, Emmaline was born in June 2002. While adjusting to being new parents, they were surprised again to find they were pregnant with a second child when Emmaline was only six months old. Kelly and Eric decided to delay their wedding until after the birth of their second child.

A few weeks before Kelly was due, she went to an ultrasound appointment where the doctors discovered that the baby was not growing as anticipated. The doctors ordered a 3D ultrasound to further investigate but before that could happen, Kelly was in labor at 37 weeks.

Kelly and Eric’s second daughter, Adrienne, was born in October 2003, and weighed 4lbs, 5 oz. The doctor asked them, “Were you expecting a Down Syndrome baby?” and promptly removed Adrienne from the delivery room.

Within 24 hours, Adrienne was moved to Cardinal Glennon Hospital. She was on an incubator, oxygen, and was being fed via an IV. She was diagnosed with Cornelia de Lange Syndrome (CdLS) which is a rare (1:10,000) genetic disorder resulting in a range of physical, cognitive and medical challenges. Kelly and Eric quickly became immersed in a crash course in medical terms, all pertaining to their newborn daughter.

Common medical issues faced by individuals diagnosed with CdLS include gastro- esophageal reflux disease (GERD), heart defects, feeding difficulties, vision problems, and hearing loss. These problems were a constant threat to Adrienne in her first months; Kelly took her back to the hospital because of horrible reflux and dehydration, when doctors found that the opening to her stomach was nearly closed. Kelly and Eric agreed, “I don’t think we slept for a whole year.”

Kelly wrote in their application, “Since Adrienne’s birth, life has been a challenge, physically, mentally, and financially.” The next 8 years were spent caring for Adrienne and raising Emmaline, who, Eric says, “Is a very helpful little girl. She’s creative and loves to read. She blows me away sometimes.”

Adrienne is now 8 years old, but is as physically developed as a three year old; she has the mental capabilities of an 18 month old. Adrienne is also affected by behavioral issues common of CdLS, including self injury and autistic-like behaviors. Eric said, “We’re very blessed. She’s a huge challenge but she’s a huge blessing

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