Colleen is a miracle. She had a very rough start in life, even before she was born. Very early in the pregnancy, Dottie was diagnosed with Pregnancy Induced Hypertension. It never did develop into full-blown preeclampsia, but it was very close. As Mom's blood pressure would increase, Colleen's heartbeat would decrease. Dottie spent a good deal of time on bed rest, allowed up only to go the restroom. This time was spent lying on her left side (which tended to go numb often).  The obstetrician later described it by saying, "Dottie and Colleen's bodies were basically allergic to each other."

At about 30-32 weeks of pregnancy, the placenta quit functioning well and Colleen was essentially deprived of a full supply of food and oxygen while in utero. She began losing weight and her heart rate continued to drop. Dottie was admitted to the hospital for observation. After a few hours, they sent Pat home for some rest, telling him that nothing would happen for quite some time. Then the doctors decided that the baby MUST be delivered early. (At this point, Pat and Dottie were still functioning under the false illusion that the baby would be a boy.)

The doctors said they would begin inducing labor. Dottie insisted on calling Pat, even though the doctors insisted it would be hours before anything happened. She called Pat, who, when he heard the word induce, dropped the phone and ran to the car (without hanging up or saying goodbye). He was so impatient with the traffic that he ended up jumping the curb and taking a shortcut through Volker Park, hoping the nice policeman parked there would give him an escort. No such luck.

It's a good thing he did hurry as much as he did because, as they began the induction, Colleen's heart rate dropped to below 30 with the first two contractions. They ended the induction immediately and decided to proceed with an emergency C-Section.

When Pat arrived at the hospital, he ran to the OB ward, where they made him scrub for what he defined as 'hours', but was really only 2 minutes. They threw a gown, mask, cap and booties on him and ushered him into the operating room. They told him to stay seated on the stool they provided. They said, "Whatever you do, don't stand up and look." Pat, being Pat, did not heed this advice. He had to take one look at the C-Section in progress. They almost had another patient on their hands.

Colleen was delivered, kicking and screaming. She was only a little over 3 pounds, but seemed to be all lungs and mouth. She was NOT happy.

By this time, Dottie's father and stepmother and her brother and his wife were in the waiting room. When her brother, Dan, and his wife had arrived in the parking lot, they found Pat and Dottie's station wagon parked diagonally across 2 or 3 parking spaces with the driver's door open and the car still running. Pat's haste was obvious.

After the delivery, Pat went out to the waiting room to tell them about the baby. Dottie's father said, "Well? What've we got?"

Pat, looking quite stunned, said, "It's a girl. What the H*** am I gonna do with a girl?"

Colleen spent only 17 days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. She proved to be a voracious eater and let her wishes be known, quite vocally, often disturbing the other babies. She came home at just a little over 4 pounds. The agreement was: She could go home that early if Pat and Dottie promised that, in those early days, she would never go longer than 3 hours without eating, even if she was sleeping and that she would see the doctor every 2 days. It was an arduous time.

After about 3 or 4 weeks, she graduated to being allowed to sleep up to 5 hours at a time. Pat and Dottie felt like they'd won the lottery! There were no real health consequences from her pre-birth difficulties and early delivery, but it soon became evident that there would be significant developmental delays. Colleen was tested and fitted for glasses at about 10 months of age. She did not crawl until she was 15 months old and didn't walk until she was about 17 months old. There was never any problem with her appetite, however.

The first two to three years of her life were a whirlwind of appointments. There were the monthly (later every two months) doctor's visits, the physical therapy, language therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, developmental screenings and evaluations, and many other incidental things thrown in.

Although she was delayed in so many ways, there were some things that she excelled in. One of them was climbing. That first became evident when she was about 19 months old. The family moved to a new house. The house that they had been living in had no closets. The new house had many. Colleen was fascinated with these little dark rooms. As Pat and Dottie carried things in, Colleen explored the rooms. But then - horror of horrors - she disappeared. Pat and Dottie first assumed she was hiding in a closet, but did not find her. Then another horrible thought occurred to them - the garage! But she wasn't there. They thought of the long flight of concrete steps leading to the basement - but she was not there either.

There was only one conclusion left. She'd gotten out when they weren't looking and was wandering down the busy street. They ran outside, calling her and searching everywhere, but she was nowhere to be found. Dottie raced inside to the phone to call 911 and heard a giggle. She looked around, but didn't see Colleen. Then, she heard the giggle again. There was Colleen sitting on top of the refrigerator, thoroughly enjoying seeing her parents running about so frantically. To this day, it is still unknown exactly how she got there.

A few months later, she had an appointment for an evaluation at the Developmental Clinic at the Kansas University Medical Center. The doctor and nurse were asking all kinds of questions about what she was able to do. The doctor asked, "Can she climb?" The nurse laughed out loud. The doctor looked puzzled. The nurse said, "Doc, this is the child that we had to get down from the top of the wall in the waiting room. She climbed the bricks."

At birth, Colleen was enrolled in the new program developed and being pioneered in Missouri called Parents as Teachers. (It's now grown into a VERY successful program nationwide and in seven other countries.) The parent educators very early recognized Colleen's developmental delays and were instrumental in first recognizing that she likely had ADHD as well. The Center School District (very much like a small town district in the heart of a big city) had, and still has, a phenomenal program for special needs students, starting as early as three years of age. Colleen was enrolled in the Special Education for Preschoolers Program, now known as the Early Childhood Program. She thrived in this learning environment.

She continued in the Special Education Program throughout her elementary, middle and high school years. She was in Special Ed for all her academic studies and mainstreamed for all non-academic classes such as Art, Music, Gym, etc. Because of this inclusiveness at Center, the Special Ed students are very much a part of the school and included in all activities, including drama, cheerleading and sports. It's a wonderful place for special kids and those who work with them.

During her years at Center High School, Colleen was a very active member of the Key Club, a service organization sponsored by Kiwanis. She received several awards for her many hours of volunteer work.

Colleen graduated from Center in 2006. Since that time, she has remained very busy volunteering wherever she can. She loves to work with young children and seems to have a special gift for it. She takes three karate classes and one T'ai Chi class each week. She helps teach the KinderChamps, the younger elementary karate students, two to three times a week and is the principal assistant instructor with the PreChamps, a special karate class for preschoolers with disabilities. She loves working with these children and they adore her.

Colleen is also very active in her church. She has her own ministry of sorts there. She has a faith that is so ingrained in her, such a part of who she is. It's a faith without doubt, without artifice and with a depth that is hard for others to comprehend. To Colleen, God simply IS - always has been and always will be.
That is not to say that there are not funny moments with Colleen and her relationship with God. It is a very personal relationship, but also one that would be difficult to define. Once when she was about five or six years old, Pat and Dottie had had one of those bedtimes that all parents go through at one time or another. They'd put her to bed and then hear, "I need to go potty," or "I need a drink," or "I need to brush my teeth," or "I need another hug," or "I need to go potty again." Finally, Pat had had enough. He told her that she was not getting up again and "Go to SLEEP!"

A few moments later, they heard, "I'm scared." Pat went into her room and soothed her, saying, "There's no reason to be afraid. Jesus is with you and he won't let anything happen to you. Now, go to sleep."

He went back to their bedroom. A few moments later, they heard it again - "I'm scared." He went in again to reassure her, telling her, "Jesus is with you. He's right here and he'll watch out for you and won't let anything happen. Go to sleep."

He went back to the bedroom, sat on the edge of the bed and began counting . . . "One . . . two . . . three . . . " and there it was . . . "I'm scared."

He sat on the bed and hollered to her, "Colleen! Jesus is with you! He'll take care of you. Now, GO TO SLEEP!"

The faint little answer came back almost immediately. "I want somebody with skin on!"

Needless to say, Pat spent part of the night sleeping on the floor in her room.

When Colleen was about eight or ten years old, Dottie sang in the church choir each Sunday morning and Pat ran the sound system from the balcony. Before worship started each morning, Colleen and Dottie would decide who Colleen would sit with in the congregation. Colleen always had someone in mind each week. One morning, as they entered the sanctuary, Dottie asked her who she wanted to sit with. Colleen replied, "I don't know yet. I have to see who needs me first." Each week, she had been seeking out the one who looked lonely or hurting or in need of a hug and that was who she chose to sit with. All this time, Pat and Dottie had been looking for adults to watch out for Colleen. Colleen had been looking for folks that she could help.

Colleen is always on the lookout for places she can minister. She loves to go to the playgrounds in the neighborhood, not so much to play herself, but to help the little ones on the slide or push them on the swings, or just run with them, giving their grateful parents a chance to catch their breath and take a brief rest on the benches surrounding the play area. The children all adore her.

Colleen volunteers once a month at a Harvester's charity food distribution. She loads up her wagon and helps folks (most of them elderly or disabled) carry their food to their cars. She works her tail off, but thoroughly enjoys it.

In 2013, Colleen sought and obtained a volunteer position at the Waldo branch of the Kansas City Public Library. She serves as an assistant to the children's librarian, working with the toddlers and preschoolers who attend storytime each week. She also helps in other areas of the library as needed.

Colleen loves music of all kinds. She may have difficulty learning some things, but she learns songs very quickly and loves to sing along, at the top of her lungs. Sometimes the lyrics get a bit garbled, but that only adds to the fun. (One of Pat and Dottie's favorites is when she sang, "I've got bees in my liver" instead of "I've got peace like a river.")

Colleen's grasp of language has always been a source of wonder and mirth. She takes everything quite literally and applies the rules of English in her own way. Once when she was about eight or so, in the car on the way home from some event or another, Pat asked her, "What should we do when we get home? Do you want to play a game or watch a movie or what?"

Colleen replied, "I'm not sure. I think I just wanna lax."

Pat laughed and said, "Don't you mean RE-lax?"

Colleen very seriously said, "No, I haven't laxed yet"

Not long ago, she asked, "How tired do I have to get before I can retire?"

Arithmetic and the grasp of numbers has also been a source of difficulty for her. One afternoon, Pat and Dottie were attempting to work with her on the concept of "one half." Dottie would lay out four blocks and then separate them one by one into two piles. Then she'd do it with six blocks and then eight. Colleen seemed to be getting the idea. They moved to paper. Dottie would write the numbers and ask Colleen to say what "half" was. She did okay on 2 and 4, but when they got 8, she insisted on saying "Three." They went back to the blocks and tried again. Then back to the paper. She still insisted that half of eight was three. Dottie tried to show her that the correct answer was "four." Finally, Colleen, with her hands on her hips, said with quite a lot of insistent consternation, "MOM! If you cut an eight in half, you get a three!"  It was at that point, that Pat and Dottie understood her difficulty with arithmetic. She didn't see numbers as representing a value. They were just neat little pictures.  That knowledge, when shared with her teachers, led to a totally different approach in teaching her and seemed to make a bit of a difference.

Colleen is always open to new adventures. She has been flying and has actually flown the plane once. She loves camp and horseback riding, swimming and hiking. She loves to travel and meet new people. Whenever the family travels by train, within an hour into the trip, almost everyone on the train knows Colleen by name. When they board, most of the passengers seem to be ready to "endure" the trip and  are just looking forward to reaching their destination. Colleen somehow takes these bored adults and brings them together, chatting and laughing and enjoying the ride. Some even seem sorry to see the ride end.

Colleen is still maturing and learning each day. It seems there is no limit to what she'll be able to learn - she just takes longer than most to do so. Each day her parents see something new that she has learned or some new skill she's mastered or just some evidence of a new maturity. Her innate curiosity and quest for learning continue and she constantly seeks out new ventures and new avenues of learning. Hers is a constant quest for new experiences, new facts, new people and new joys.

Pat and Dottie try often to understand or explain exactly what it is that is so extraordinary about Colleen. It's hard to put your finger on it. It's a zest of life; a willingness to embrace each new day and each new activity; an unhindered enjoyment of the simplest things; a way of looking at things and only seeing the good; a inability to deliberately cause harm or hurt to anyone or anything; an outlook of "I choose to be happy." It's all of these things and yet, it's also so much more. It's a "Colleen thing" - a part of her that is so phenomenal it can't be put into words. It has to be experienced. And, even then, it's still indescribable.

She is, in so many ways, a miracle.