Sunday, September 17, 2000

Year after Kyle's death, parents have healthy baby girl

By Richelle Thompson
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Sometimes, when she sleeps, Halia Kyle Catherine Hesselbrock looks exactly like her big brother Kyle. Her laugh mimics his. The expression she gives a photographer, a lips-pursed, eyebrows-furrowed, not-in-the-mood look, is an exact imitation.

        The similarities are a comfort. But the difference between Halia and Kyle is a godsend.

        The Enquirer first introduced Kyle two years ago. He was suffering from Tay-Sachs, a rare genetic disorder that destroys the nervous system in children before killing them by age 5. His parents, Andy and Suzanne Hesselbrock of Morrow, were trying to increase awareness and raise money for research.

        Kyle died in July, 1999, at 2 years, 9 months and five days. At the funeral, he lay in a cradle instead of a casket.

        His parents struggled in the final months of his life and afterward with whether to try to have more children. They were both carriers of the disease, and any biological child would have a one in four chance of inheriting it.

        The Hesselbrocks tried adoption, but it fell through when the birth mother decided to keep the child. They considered artificial insemination with sperm from another donor but decided against it.

        They prayed and read and researched.

        Without telling family or friends, the Hesselbrocks started trying to get pregnant. Within three months, they conceived.

        Then began the agonizing decision to have genetic testing to determine whether the fetus had the disease. Mrs. Hesselbrock had never thought she could even consider an abortion. That was before she watched her first child die.

        Results showed Halia didn't have the disease. The healthy girl was born Aug. 18 at 3:07 p.m. by Caeserean section. First came her right foot, then her little rear-end and finally a headful of night-dark hair.

        Mrs. Hesselbrock watched it all in the mirror.

        Three days later, Mom and Dad took Halia home to a pink “It's a Girl” balloon and a nursery of bears and bunnies.

        “I look at her, and I still can't believe she's here,” Mrs. Hesselbrook says. “I'm so excited she's here ... but it also makes me sad Kyle's not here to be with her. Sometimes I imagine him as a healthy 4-year-old, helping me with her.”

        The Hesselbrocks talk to Halia about the older brother she will never know. Mrs. Hesselbrock even started singing to Halia the song she and Kyle shared. She made out “You are my sunshine, my only ...” before bursting into tears.

        “I told Halia we'll have to come up with a new song together.”

        The Hesselbrocks received on Thursday a confirmation letter that Halia did not have Tay-Sachs. Her parents will have her tested later to see whether she is a carrier of the disorder.

        Still, Mrs. Hesselbrock watches every movement, on-guard for any sign Halia might be slipping into the same terrible descent as her brother. Even with the letter, that won't stop, Mrs. Hesselbrock says.

        “When it's time for her to start sitting, crawling, all the milestones Kyle never did, I'll be really watching and probably freak out if she doesn't do it on time,” Mrs. Hesselbrock says.

        The Hesselbrocks have put off discussion of whether they'll have other children.

        “Maybe in a couple of years I'll feel differently. But at this point, I don't think I want to take that chance,” she says. “We'd be happy if her and Kyle were all we had.”


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