August 10, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – “Why do you even want to bother?”
Elizabeth and Hugh Poza were stunned by the question. Coming from the doctor whose help they had hoped to enlist in curing their daughter’s deafness, it seemed a rejection of the very worth of her life.
At ten months, their little girl, Kala Marie, had a huge medical file. She had begun life with profound deafness, severe congenital heart defects, a cleft lip and palate, seizures, and lung problems that made her dependent on a tracheostomy (a tube inserted into her throat) to breathe.
A surgery at birth had corrected her cleft lip and palate, and her parents hoped that her ears were developed enough to benefit from cochlea implants. They had to fight just to obtain the exam that would determine whether she could receive the implants.
It was not the first time, nor would it be the last, that the couple found themselves defending the dignity of Kala’s life.
When doctors told the Pozas at five months’ gestation about Kala’s condition, they delivered a grim prognosis: the baby would most likely die in utero, or shortly after birth. If she survived, her quality of life, the couple was told, would be “nothing.” They were encouraged to consider an abortion.
Instead, the family went shopping for baby clothes and began preparing a nursery to welcome their second child.
“I don’t care what kind of life it is that comes into this world or how long it is. Every life is precious,” said Elizabeth, in an interview with LifeSiteNews.com.
While it turned out that Kala’s ears were not developed enough for the implants, the little girl who was supposed to have “no quality of life,” went on to attend a school for the deaf and became fluent in sign language.
She overcame all the odds merely by surviving. But she didn’t just survive. For the five-and-a-half years that God gave her on earth, Kala lived her life to the fullest and touched countless other lives with her infectious joy and hope, says Elizabeth.
From the moment of her birth, it was clear that Kala was determined to live. Just drawing her first breath was a struggle, but she conquered it. After one brief, peaceful moment in her mother’s arms, her heart-rate plummeted and she was whisked away for treatment. She spent the next nine-and-a-half months in the hospital and had to be put into a medically induced coma.
Gradually, she recovered and gained strength. Doctors warned the family that she may never even be able to sit erect, but she doggedly passed each benchmark: she sat, crawled, stood, walked, learned to communicate, and, just before her death, learned to breathe without her tracheostomy.
“I was so impressed with her fighting spirit, because she defied all odds, and it was almost like, ‘Ha-ha, look at me,’” Elizabeth said, with a laugh.
And her family members say through it all, she just never stopped smiling. “She could send God’s joy through a room in seconds,” says Kala’s paternal grandmother Karen Poza.
According to one of Kala’s aunts, Marie Hennessy, the entire extended family quickly realized that it was not Kala who needed them, but they who needed Kala.
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She was “a beacon,” Marie says, remembering how Kala’s warm, loving nature had helped her husband, Jon, to feel at ease when he first met her extended family.
“She reached out to Jon,” added Marie. “She would always take the person who seemed to need her most.”
Kala’s love reached far beyond the family circle, to people she barely even knew, noted her mom.
“It didn’t matter if you knew her for her entire life, or if you had just met her, she made you smile. She would connect with people,” says Elizabeth “She just knew that she had to give as much joy as possible in that short period of time, and she did.”
It wasn’t until Kala’s death, in May 2008, that the family fully realized the number of people whose lives she had touched.
When Kala’s fragile heart finally gave out one night, the family was floored by how many came to the funeral to share in their grief and celebrate the life of their little girl. The church was packed with family and friends decked out in bright, cheerful clothing. The organ rang out the vibrant, upbeat music that Kala had always loved in the happy thought that the vibrations from the floor may still reach Kala’s lifeless body.
Her death and her funeral were “a true testament to her life,” says Elizabeth, who likened Kala’s death to her birth.
“Her birth was beautiful. I was laughing through it, I got to hold her. We had at least 50 people in this tiny room awaiting her presence,” Elizabeth said. “And her death was so much the same, because, I know as odd as that sounds, so many people I think are afraid of death, and she was completely peaceful.”
She adds, “Had I ever said that I wanted to terminate my pregnancy I would never have had that opportunity to share with the world the joy and the love of that one life.”
Kala’s presence can still be felt, and family members say they know that she is a powerful intercessor in Heaven. After discovering that she had lost a tooth the night of her death, they began praying to her to recover lost objects. “Within no time, we usually find whatever we lost,” says Vanessa Mosher, Kala’s godmother.
The family plans to establish a foundation in her memory called “Kala’s Hope,” which will raise funds to help children and their families through the anguish of long-term hospitalization.
The name of the foundation expresses the special gift that Kala left behind.
“Anybody who knew her and knew the struggles that she went through got hope from it, because there is a child who is in so much pain,” Elizabeth says, “and yet she would smile and give you a hug and she would love you.”