One Miracle at a Time
by NancyLee Honey Marsh
Photography by Anne, Inc. – Sloan Bragg
Flipping her arm gracefully over her head, she assumed a perfect New York, New York stance! Beneath pixie bangs, her twinkling eyes were filled with mischief. Caroline Campbell is on a mission!
Her goal? To make all those around her happy, and she loves the challenge. She survived life-threatening heart surgery at 11 months old, spending a month in Medical University of South Carolina hospital. Accompanied by lots of love and encouragement, she’s strongly and gleefully overcome more obstacles than most children. Jennifer and Kenny Campbell, Caroline’s parents, have taken Caroline to church since she was a tot. Along with fellow members of Community Bible Church, they have watched Caroline and her spirituality grow, and “the church became her world.”
Twenty-one years ago, God threw a surprise curve ball at Jennifer and Kenny… and, they hit it out of the park! “We knew nothing about Down Syndrome babies,” said pretty blond-haired Jennifer. “After the adjustment period, we sought all available options to help Caroline. Our families were wonderful support, and my mom, a retired schoolteacher, jumped in to assist us. We found help with Caroline’s development starting at six weeks old to be sure she was on schedule; the early intervention made a terrific difference for her. With regular exercise and practice, she progressed amazingly well. Every accomplishment was a milestone.” Nearly 50 percent of Down Syndrome children suffer heart issues, and Caroline fought for her life when they discovered a hole in her heart. “She made it through the open-heart surgery at MUSC and was scheduled to go home the next day, when she coded! Complications set in and she spent the next four weeks struggling, but she has lots of strength and is a determined gal,” Jennifer confirmed.
As Caroline progressed, speech therapists worked with her and she attended Montessori School for two years. “She started kindergarten in the public school system and the teachers and classes for special needs children were great. There was an individual plan for each child,” Jennifer said.
Caroline sang in the children’s choir and danced at age 9. She loved it all and quickly developed a great deal of self-confidence. She visits many nursing homes and performs for them and has the ability to make everyone feel at ease.” She has two adoring, protective brothers, Christian, 19 and Matthew, 15, described by Caroline as “perfect.”
Jennifer home-schooled Christian and Caroline together through high school. “I graduated with Christian,” petite Caroline told me proudly. Energetic and self-assured, Caroline named all activities she loves, “I dance ballet, tap, jazz and hip hop! I love to be on stage,” she smiled. “No, I’ve never been afraid! Look! I can do a split” and as quickly as the words escaped her lips, she dropped easily into the dance position! Promptly on her feet again, she sat momentarily, then removed from her lime green bag with Hilton Head logo, a pink (her favorite color) notebook. “I have always loved church and the Bible,” she bubbled. “My favorite book is Ester, but I am copying the whole Bible. See? This is what I have written already!” She carefully turned page after page of very neatly printed words from the Bible. “Caroline’s fascination with the Holy Bible continues,” confirmed her mom. “Even after completing 18 books, she is still in love with working on it. She religiously spends one to two hours a day writing the words from the Bible, and her room is filled with her notebooks.”
“Read the Bible every day! Especially Ester, and John 3:16; it’s my favorite verse,” advised the Special Olympics tennis participant. On a recent trip to Washington a large singing group was performing and Caroline’s dad hinted that his daughter loved to sing publicly. “Minutes later the group announced the presence of a very special guest,” recalled Kenny, owner of Shoreline Medical Transport. “Caroline marched to the stage, and in front of hundreds of people, joyfully sang ‘Amazing Grace,’ a cappella!
She has changed our lives,” said Kenny who finished nursing school at age 27. “When I saw how the nurses helped Caroline, I wanted to do the same for others,” he reflected. “Caroline gives unconditional love. She is non-judgmental and really…more like Jesus,” Jennifer concluded. As the Campbells left, I marveled at three miracles, lovingly entwined.
Caroline’s Desires: “I want to see Egypt, Israel and the Dead Sea Scrolls, I want to dance on Broadway and I want to teach and preach the Bible.”
More Caroline Miracles: She works part-time at Bubba’s Antique Gift Shop in Beaufort, spends five hours each week painting and dances at Beaufort Academy of Dance.