Growing up, Stacy McCracken wanted to get married and have two kids, a boy and a girl.
She got her wish, but life today looks a little different than she imagined.
Stacy son, Skyler, has a rare and terminal genetic condition. Stacy herself is struggling with a second kidney transplant in the early stages of rejection. And the home she shares with her husband Jonathan, 2-year-old Skyler and 4-year-old daughter Halay is being repaired after a leaky dishwasher left it infested with mold.
The McCrackens are the Transcript-Bulletin Christmas Benefit Fund Family for 2012. Hopefully, with the help of the newspaper and its readers, their Christmas can be a bit bright this year.
When Stacy, now 36, was diagnosed with a kidney condition at age 16, potential problems having children because of the condition were the last thing on her mind.
“The first thing out of the doctor’s mouth to my parents was, ‘Don’t worry, she can still have children,’” Stacy said.
Stacy had just gotten her driver’s license a few months earlier, but now had to stay off the streets while she got a kidney transplant and recovered afterwards. That kidney did its job for a decade — the typical life expectancy of a kidney transplant — before failing and requiring a second transplant.
Before that second transplant, though, Stacy met Jonathan.
Stacy, a native of Tooele, and Jonathan, who grew up in Arlington, Va., first met over the Internet on a singles chat room in 2000. Jonathan remembers their first conversation on Superbowl Sunday of that year.
“One of the first things we talked about was who each of us thought was going to win the game,” he said.
Stacy said she cannot recall a subject about which both of them were passionate that led to an instant connection, but conversation between them was pleasant and flowed freely.
“At the time, I think both of us needed someone to talk to, and the more we talked and the more we got to know each other, the more we became connected,” Stacy said. “We both enjoyed just talking to each other and being comfort for each other.”
After getting to know each other remotely, Stacy and her mother flew to Virginia to meet Jonathan face to face. After her visit, he came to see her in Tooele twice. On his third visit, he bought a round-trip ticket but never took the return flight home.
“I kept teasing him about it,” Stacy said. “Like, ‘You can still go back, you’ve got the other half of that ticket.’ Then it expired, and it was like, ‘Well, looks like you’re stuck here, hope that’s a good thing.’”
As it turned out, it was. The couple were married in September 2001.
Jonathan and Stacy agreed on wanting to have two kids, a boy and a girl, but when it came time to actually have them, things got complicated. Stacy learned that the anti-rejection medication she took for her kidney would almost certainly cause birth defects for the child, and when her doctor put her on a different medication that had a much lower risk of causing birth defects, her body started attacking itself, with her white blood cells and platelets viciously turning to odds with one another.
“They said I could still have kids but I’d be high risk,” she said. “I didn’t want to cause problems for the baby. I figure, if something happens to go wrong anyway, that’s one thing, but I didn’t want to knowingly make things more difficult for the baby.”
Instead, the McCrackens first decided to become foster parents with the hope of adopting one of the children they would care for, but later decided the emotional pain they might feel if an adoption fell through after becoming attached to the child would be too much to bear. From there, they registered with an adoption agency, Sandy-based An Act of Love.
In the summer of 2008, they learned that a pregnant woman in San Diego had chosen them to be the adoptive parents of her child. Halay was born that December.
The McCrackens had planned to wait for a few years before seeing if they could adopt again, but several months later one of Stacy’s coworkers approached her and told her that her grandson’s girlfriend had become pregnant from a one-night stand and was planning on getting an abortion, but could be persuaded to continue the pregnancy and give the baby up for adoption.
“We had wanted another one but we figured we’d wait,” Jonathan said. “But with adoption, when they’re there, you go. You don’t wait.”
Skyler was born in December, just a few days before Christmas and less than a week after Halay’s birthday. Because he was born two months early, he spent the first month of his life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the University of Utah.
“It didn’t even cross my mind. At that point, I had my kidney transplant and all was well,” she said. “I figured, I can handle adoption and taking normal visits [to the doctor] for the kids, and then all of the sudden it changed.”
When he was about six months old, the McCrackens, concerned at his lack of development, took Skyler to his pediatrician. After the possibility of Menke’s Disease, a rare genetic neurological and developmental disorder caused by an inability of the body to process copper, was initially dismissed, Stacy requested a genetic test be done to prove the existence or absence of the disorder. It came back positive.
Before the diagnosis, Skyler frequently had trouble breathing and would have mucous build up in his lungs, and he did not want to eat anything, most likely because it was difficult for him to swallow it. Treatment for Skyler’s condition meant copper injections to help stave off the effects of the disease and a feeding tube and suction machine to allow him to swallow properly.
And then, last month, Stacy’s kidney started to fail again. Earlier this week, Stacy made a flurry of phone calls to various hospitals in the Tooele and Salt Lake area, looking for one that would let her do dialysis on Christmas Eve so she would not have to miss Christmas Day with her family and children while hooked up to a machine. She eventually got her wish.
“It’s just hard because I want to be there for my kids, but I have to keep up on my health,” Stacy said.
Even though the repairs on their house have now taken nearly three months, in part because of the timetable of their home insurance company, Jonathan said, the contractor over the repairs, Rock Solid Builders, has been very thoughtful, considerate and thorough. Best Western Inn, where the McCrackens are currently staying, has also been accommodating, he said.
Stacy said she received an outpouring of community support, especially since her family has been profiled in the Transcript-Bulletin this month. That support has come in the form of concerned messages on Facebook, offers of help and even being stopped in the grocery store or hospital by encouraging, concerned people, some of whom she has never met.
“It’s been overwhelming with all the love and support we’ve gotten. It’s been nice, but how do you even repay everybody?” she said. “Even people we don’t know have been so great. I don’t think people know how helpful even simple words are — even just, ‘We’re thinking of you.’”
Because of the mold infestation, many of the McCrackens’ household linens, such as towels, had to be disposed of, because Stacy and Skyler’s lowered immune systems made even a trace of the mold more serious than it would be for someone with a healthy immune system. Because of this, the McCrackens would appreciate household linens and kitchen items such as pots, pans, utensils, a toaster.
Halay likes princess toys, and her favorite princess is The Little Mermaid. She wears a size 5T to 6T, and could use shirts and jeans. Skyler likes toys with lights and sounds. He wears a size 18 months and could use soft clothing, such as sweats. Diapers for Skyler, size 3 or 4, would also be appreciated.
To help the McCrackens, please drop off donated items or send money to the Tooele Transcript-Bulletin, 58 North Main Street, Tooele, Utah, 84074. Please clearly mark the items “Christmas Benefit Fund.” The deadline for donations is this Friday, Dec. 21 at 5 p.m.