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Community gathers to support local parents, special-needs baby

He opened his eyes, had the softest cry, gripped my finger and stole my heart.” ~ Kara Cross

POLSON — Six-month-old Emmett Cross isn’t like regular babies, his mother said, but that hasn’t stopped her from loving him.

Kara Cross, 26, gave birth to her son on May 8. He was delivered via Caesarean section.

Emmett has been diagnosed with Walker Warburg syndrome, the most severe form of congenital muscular dystrophy. He has had two surgeries to have shunts installed to alleviate water on the brain. (The first shunt failed.) He is fed through a tube multiple times a day and during the night. He can’t kick and roll around, lift his arms or hold his head up. But he can cuddle, his mother said. And though he’s partially blind and partially deaf, he does notice voices.

Emmett was born at Seattle Children’s Hospital. “He needed a little kick start to get going,” his father Jordan Cross said. “The first few hours he didn’t make a sound. After she held him for a half hour, his color changed and he started making weak whimpers.”

“He opened his eyes, had the softest cry, gripped my finger and stole my heart,” Kara said, adding that she wasn’t sure if those things would happen.

“We just love him,” Jordan said, adding that he’s like a rag doll because he can’t move very much.

Emmett is receiving physical and occupational therapy once a week to help him move his muscles and stimulate his brain. He will soon begin seeing a speech therapist every three weeks.

Emmett can’t swallow. “We’ll just have to see how he does when he gets older,” Kara said.

With Emmett’s condition comes a life expectancy of three years.

During Kara’s pregnancy, the couple was told that Emmett had spina bifida, a birth defect that affects the spinal cord, and that he would live two months. Then they were told he had a Dandy-Walker brain anomaly, but that was incorrect as well. Turns out Emmett was born with a brain stem shaped like a lightning bolt, Jordan said, a jagged or zig-zag shape instead of straight.

“He has little seizures,” Jordan added, “He just started anti-seizure medicine.”

At 30 weeks of pregnancy, a doctor told them he could drain the fluid from Emmett’s brain and Kara could give birth to a dead child. The Crosses chose life instead.

“I would never change my decisions,” Kara said, noting she was told Emmett would never move, be a vegetable and be hooked up to a machine. “I’d do this all over in a heartbeat.”

The 2010 Polson High graduates and Ronan residents have made three trips to Seattle with Emmett since he was born, but thanks to a pediatric center that opened in Kalispell last year, they can now take him there for most medical services.

“We have taken everything in stride since day one,” said Lei Ann Cross, Emmett’s paternal grandmother. “He’s blessed to have the parents he has, and they’re blessed to have this little guy.”

“He’s our first and only child. This is usual business for us,” said Jordan, 25, the assistant manager at Platt Electric Supply in Polson.

Kara has quit her job to give her son the 24-hour care he needs.

Emmett’s maternal grandmother, Stacy Slocum, said the couple hasn’t been approved yet for Social Security for Emmett, so she set up a fundraising website for them at: emmett-cross.

For those who prefer to donate in person, a bank account has also been set up for Emmett at Eagle Bank.

The community recently rallied around Emmett and his family at a spaghetti dinner fundraiser, raffle and silent auction held last Friday at the Polson Elks Lodge. Funds raised and donated will help defray medical expenses and travel costs the Crosses regularly incur.

“How awesome it is to see friends and family and the community come together for this,” Jordan said. “It’s humbling.”

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