By Sheena Zielger

In 2007, James and I began dating.  Three years later, we welcomed our first son—Hayden James—into the world. Our lives were perfect. In October of 2011, we found out we were going to have another baby, and we were very excited. That December, we had our first ultrasound.  This was the day our lives changed forever.

We found our there was not one baby, but two.  We couldn’t believe it! We were so scared. How were we going to financially make it with two babies and a toddler?  Nevertheless, we made a plan and we knew we could do it. In February we found out that our babies had two conditions called vasa previa and placenta previa.  This changed everything.  Vasa previa comes with a 50% to 90% mortality rate if not treated correctly.  If I would have gone into early labor, the babies’ umbilical cords would explode and they would die (with a risk that I might not survive either).  Due to the severity of the condition, I was sent to Abbot North Western in Minneapolis the next day. 

Without knowing how long I would be hospitalized and James working, I had to leave both him and Hayden behind.  I spent a grueling three months in the hospital, in a bed, and I was not allowed to walk anywhere outside of the unit I resided in.  As time winded down, I was having more and more ultra sounds.  We only had two weeks left until the babies could safely be removed.

One afternoon, they called me to their clinic for yet another ultrasound.  It felt like five hours.  The nurse explained to me the doctor was not in, but she said he would be visiting me in my room later that day.  We finished and she left. Half an hour later the doctor walked in. I knew something was wrong; I could just feel it. The doctor explained to me that one of the babies was missing his upper right hand and that they were not sure as to what other damage there had been. We would have to wait until the babies could be delivered safely to find out.

Two weeks later, that day finally arrived.  They rolled me to surgery and we began the process.  Landon and Lucas were delivered safely on May 17th, 2012 at 10:42am. Landon came out with no right hand and a minimally-functioning left hand. He was born without knuckles, so he can only bend his hand in one direction.  We have spent a lot of time figuring out the process of living with a child with physical disabilities. Let me just say, aside from the numerous doctors’ appointments and medications due to having preemies, it really was not that bad.

Today, three years later, we are finding the struggle harder and harder as Landon grows.  Everything in our home is backward for him. He cannot grasp a faucet to turn it on, and he is unable to open doors.  Landon needs more, and we would like to try to give him that: handrails on both sides of the stairs, sinks that can be controlled by levers (right now Landon burns himself trying to wash his hands every day using just hot water).  Just like any three year old, right now he wants to do everything himself.  We would like to provide Landon with a home in which he can grow more independent. As of right now, we rent a town home and we are unable to make these changes for him.

Our town home, let me tell you, is not a nightmare, but it is not what we need to accommodate Landon.  There is a high crime rate in our neighborhood and the police are here on a weekly, and often times daily, basis.  The windows leak in winter air which causes our gas bill to be so high that we pay it off all summer long.  At one point there was a flood and the landlord did not want to do anything about it, so we were left to clean up as much as we could.  We bleached everything, but I am fairly sure there may be mold growing under the carpet.  Our house works, but it will never really be a home until Landon is able to live comfortably and safely.

It is easy to see why this family fits into the Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity program.  On top of the high cost of the Ziegler’s rent and utilities, they are faced with numerous medical bills.  James is originally from Staples and cannot wait to return to his hometown. They are eager to get their children enrolled in the Catholic school. James is a manager at Wal-Mart and Sheena is a student working hard toward her special education certification. Their twins both have challenges – Lucas is physically sound but is showing signs of delayed cognitive development. This family is excited to get hands on  with the remodeling of an existing home in Staples. The home they will be moving into will be rehabbed to fit the needs of their family, including being adapted to Landon’s physical needs.  When the home is complete, the family will have a mortgage of $300.00 or less a month and the Ziegler family entire can grow together safely, comfortably, and efficiently.

They will have a place for them to call home and to create happy memories in for many years to come.

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