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This is a true story. 

Halfway to term, new parents learn their unborn daughter’s diagnosis: the most severe form of a spinal cord defect. They know that she might never walk, that she might never control her bladder or bowels.

They accept months of uncertainty to come. They recognize that answers will arrive only after her birth. And they place their faith in a team of caregivers at the Medical University of South Carolina.

This is a story about a hospital – doctors, nurses, therapists, technicians, midwives, schedulers – building and executing a plan to provide for this family, both medically and emotionally. It’s a story about an entire community of caregivers working together, from supporting the parents with genetic counseling to monitoring the baby’s tiny heart.

This is Harper’s story. It’s MUSC’s story. And because you’re part of our extended family of friends and supporters, it’s your story, too. When you see our mantra -- “Changing what’s possible” -- this story is what we mean.  

Chapter 1: Waiting for Harper

She was almost halfway to term at 18 weeks, and she and Stephen had learned that that they were having a girl more than a month earlier. “Save your time off for when Harper arrives,” Jenna told her husband. “It’s just a regular checkup.”

Chapter 2: Best- and Worst-Case Scenarios

Stephen pressed him for numbers. What are the odds that Harper would need a shunt to route excess fluid away from her brain? What’s the chance she would need multiple surgeries? How likely would she be able to walk or control her own bodily functions?

Chapter 3: Counting Down

Jenna already knew how tough it was to be different. She taught English to Speakers of Other Languages, students with more stories of hardship behind them than some of their peers would experience in a lifetime.

Chapter 4: Harper’s Birth

Jenna heard someone say, “She’s so cute!” but nothing else, as nurses whisked her daughter away to be examined. While the surgeon worked on Jenna’s stitches, Stephen followed Harper, listening to the commentary that trailed her bassinet rolling down the hall.

Chapter 5: Repairing Harper’s Spine

He and Jenna held Harper in the dim blue light of the neonatal intensive care unit. Hums and beeps charted vital signs of the hospital’s tiniest patients and counted out loud the Browns’ every second together.

Chapter 6: ‘Miracle Baby’

During her first feeding, Harper hungrily swallowed too much milk too fast. Jenna and Stephen watched, horrified, as their daughter -- who made it through a high-risk birth and delicate surgery on her spine the next day -- turned blue.