For 17 years, the Pig Bowl has instilled hope and belief into the lives of several families.
The outpouring of love and support is both a humbling and emotional experience that is never forgotten.
On Sept. 21 at Sid White Field, Oregon and Washington law enforcement participated in the 17th annual Pig Bowl in an effort to raise funds and bring a community and local families together for a night of fun, games and music.
Recipients this year were Brynlynn Macnab, of The Dalles, Courtney Erikson, of Parkdale, and Christian Rowan of Wishram, Wash.
Brynlynn was born premature last February at 23 weeks and six days; Erikson, a 23-year-old who has cystic fibrosis and is hoping for a double lung transplant, and Rowan was born last December with a genetic mutation and an inability to absorb nutrients.
Brynlynn’s mother, Lindy, was still overcome with emotion following a check presentation at Westwind Frame and Gallery on Thursday, Sept. 26.
“We feel loved and embraced by our community,” Lindy said. “We feel honored in a way that feels larger than words can express. It’s a reminder that families like ours are not alone; that we have community members -- people like you (Pig Bowl and all that you represent) who have delivered their support, wrapped their arms around us and sent the message to us that we are not alone. It feels like we can stand up straight with a community response like this; stand up straight, when it feels like, at times, we are tipping over. What an incredible gift you have given to us. An act of love and support that we are grateful to have been given.”
Brynlynn is the daughter of Lindy and Shea Macnab. A 19-week ultrasound last January found Lindy’s cervix shortening, presenting a danger of premature birth. A procedure at 22 weeks four days to stitch it shut worked briefly, but Brynlynn arrived on Feb. 9, at 23 weeks and six days, weighing one pound, eight ounces and was about 12 inches long.
Four days after she was born, Brynlynn had a spontaneous bowel perforation requiring surgery, then sepsis, which required antibiotics, and about nine blood transfusions due to anemia. She needed a feeding tube and was on a ventilator.
She had a pancreatic insufficiency, which required an insulin drip and a blood clot in her heart.
But she got off the insulin and the blood clot has shrunk.
Brynlynn came home June 18, two weeks after what would have been her due date. Now, she no longer needs the feeding tube she came home with. She is feeding well and weighs about 12 pounds now.
Lindy said the circumstances have yielded pain and struggle, but also pure joy and happiness.
In the entire process, Shea said that the family has become closer.
“Me and my wife can both testify to that,” Shea said. “Through five months of us driving back and forth and living apart, No. 1, with Lindy and Brynn being in Portland, and Shea and Boston and I being here in The Dalles and packing up every weekend, you have to do a lot to make that happen. There are a lot of sacrifices and none of those sacrifices are easy, but in the end, it was all worth it. Our oldest son Shea had to pick up a lot of slack around the house, helping me with Boston, and he did a phenomenal job stepping in for his mom, while she was gone for four and a half months. It has made us pretty tight.”
Christian Rowan was due to be born Jan. 4 this year, but arrived last Dec. 17. He was conceived with a genetic mutation called CTLA4, which was passed to him by his mother. He appeared to be completely healthy and was released without the genetic testing his parents requested. At a well child checkup, it was found Christian wasn’t gaining weight.
They finally did the genetic testing, and he did have the mutation.
A procedure found he lacked the villi in the small intestine that absorb the nutrients going in his body. He was switched to a completely digested formula and put on a feeding tube.
Christian came home four weeks later with a feeding tube and a feeding plan.
“He has gained eight ounces since he was released three months ago, which is not a lot. He is still the size of a one-month-old weighing in at 12 pounds, five ounces.”
He sees the doctor weekly or sometimes even twice a week.
“They still do not have a plan of treatment for Christian, but they hope to have an idea of what to do in the next couple of weeks. There are so many unknowns still. For now, he is stable, and plans are being made to move forward.”
One day, Christian’s mother Shawnda hopes that he can actually play in the Pig Bowl and find a way to give back to someone else.
“I plan on supporting the Pig Bowl for the next couple of years,” Shawnda said. “I didn’t even know it existed until this year when we got a call from Mike (Holloran) letting us know that we had been nominated. I think our goal will be to support it every year for everything they have done for us and the support that we have received.”
Erikson wrote on pigbowl.net about living with Cystic Fibrosis, which is a genetic disease that involves the lungs, digestive system and pancreas.
CF creates a thick, sticky mucous in the lungs that makes it harder to breathe and do things, she wrote. It also affects the digestive system, forcing her to take enzymes every time she eats in order to break down her food.
Erikson has to take 15 pills each morning and again at night, plus breathing treatments. She also gets sick often.
She’s had multiple surgeries, including four major ones on her lungs and is now waiting to be listed for a double lung transplant, but her low weight is holding her back currently.
“They want you to be a certain BMI (Body Mass Index) before performing the surgery,” she wrote. “This is because the surgery not only takes a toll on your body, but your bones get hit hard as well. Most people lose about 10 percent of their bones after surgery. Unfortunately, I also have osteoporosis and have the bones of an 80-year-old. Therefore, I exercise twice a week in The Dalles in order to continue strengthening my muscles, my bones and my breathing.”
Erikson thanked everyone who has prayed for her family and helped them.
“The encouragement from the community keeps me fighting,” Erikson said. “From one thing to another, I can’t let anything stop me. To have everyone come together to help us is inspiring. Their words and their support helps me to hope.”
Supporters can visit www.pigbowl.net to check on updates or to nominate a family.
Since its founding in 2003, the Pig Bowl has raised $358,000 for 23 families, including $39,819 this year.
“If you’d have told me 17 years ago that the Pig Bowl would be an annual event and something so embraced by the community, I’d never have believed you,” said Holloran, the Pig Bowl organizer and an Oregon State Police Senior Trooper. “People always ask me when the Pig Bowl will cease to exist and I figure as long as there are still needy families in the gorge, and assuming I’m still alive, then I’ll do my best to be a blessing to as many people as we can.”