Vivians Victory

viv vicGod is Here

Rod and Maria Dunlap are not an ordinary married couple and in their first two years they have not had an ordinary marriage.  They are an extraordinary twosome whose first year of marriage withstood trials that most couples do not experience within their lifetimes.

Recently, I made arrangements to meet with Rod and Maria for dinner and I found myself fondly thinking of them as I drove from work to a restaurant in Newport, Kentucky.   Since I was running a little late, I knew that Maria’s engaging smile would greet me just in front of her cheerful personality; while Rod’s more quiet but strong presence would  be right beside her.

Maria and Rod had been a referral to 1heart2souls in May 2012 by way of Maria’s sister, Clare, who had reached out to 1heart2souls to be a partner in a walk-a-thon for the benefit of their baby that was due in August.

Rod and Maria were married in May, 2011 and by Christmas that year they broke the news that they were expecting a baby. The good news spread to family and friends and the excited parents could only think of all the good days ahead in raising the fruit of their love.

March 7th, 2012 was a day they had been looking forward to with great anxiousness.  They were scheduled for an ultrasound that would reveal the baby’s gender and a better view of their baby’s sweet features.

Maria and Rod were not prepared to hear the news the doctor gave them that day; their baby daughter had a serious heart condition called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS). A defective heart that affects only 4 out of 10,000 babies and their baby was one.

So began the journey of two people who began their love story like most young couples who are ready to start making their dreams a reality.  No marriage preparation class or book had prepared them for what was about to turn their world upside down in an effort to save their baby’s life.

Tears, prayers, time, family and friends fortified their hope, but one day through her tears Maria’s heart  was moved by a thought that suddenly jolted her – “God is here!”, “God is here!” Rod and Maria knew the journey would be hard, but this was their little girl, and they would help Vivian (Vivi) fight for her victory.  The following four months of testing and patiently waiting for Vivian to make her way into the world were times to discover the greatest and weakest attributes of each other.  By the time Vivian arrived, Rod and Maria were ready to exchange their own lives so that she might have hers.

vivian victory 1A Victory Party for Vivian

From what we understand, there was an all-night welcoming party that was celebrated in the waiting room by the Lees family (Maria’s family) for Vivian Teresa who was born July 24, 2012 around 6:32 AM.  Within a short period of time after holding their bundle of joy, Vivian was transported from Good Samaritan hospital to Cincinnati Children’s where the race to save Vivian began.   Rod and Maria, who hardly had time to hold their daughter in their arms, vigilantly remained at her side. Maria’s posts on her blog “God is Here!” had a growing audience as Maria posted their ups and downs of their journey as they prepared for Vivian’s Victory.

“Every day we are counting Vivian’s Victories.  She is beating the odds that were set before us.  She is not blue, she is breathing on her own, we are able to hold her and love on her all day long and I am able to attempt nursing (which is complete torture for Viv).  All of these are huge blessings.  I am learning through the news of her Abernathy Syndrome (which there have only been 400 cases recorded by the way) that every moment is a blessing.  As hard as it is to verbalize, we aren’t guaranteed any moment with Viv.  She is doing awesome, but that could change at any moment.  God is really shaping my heart to overly appreciate the moment we are in and to be overly grateful for the grace we are receiving.  In the heat of emotion, I got so angry at God–why do I need to learn this with my daughter?  Why can’t I learn this some other way?  Why can’t I learn any of this any other way than what I am?  It just isn’t fair.”

Vivi’s Victory

The prayers of many poured in while extraordinary graces showered onto Rod and Maria as they endured all the trials, heartaches, and heartbreaking disappointments.  After 59 days God decided Vivian’s life had accomplished what was necessary and she was called home.  While the sorrow was nearly crippling, the supernatural joy and love of having had Vivian’s life given to them made it possible to carry their lives forward. Thus, Maria wrote on her blog:

“My Dearest Vivi,

Oh, Baby Girl-words will never be able to begin to describe the love my heart holds for you.  In 59 short days, your sweet soul captured the hearts of all who fumbled onto your path.  You, my sweet girl, are an inspiration and light to each of us here, and to any that are not.

Being your mom is a joy that humbles me–why did God chose me to be the mother of such an amazing saint? Someday, I hope to see as you see, but until then, I am in complete awe.

I never wanted to be ‘that mom’ you know the one that thinks her child is so special–but I couldn’t help it–you are so precious.  It always made me feel better about this when after someone visited you they would tell me that they felt like a better person.  There is something about you Vivi that drew people so close, encouraged people to be better.

My dear, in your short stay on this earth, you have taught me so much–you have taught me to love every moment…to cherish the little things that are so mundane we take for granted.  I don’t think I ever in my life have gotten so excited to change a diaper or clip nails or do laundry.  You have taught me through your actions how to suffer with great grace.  Never once did you back down or stop fighting as you lived your mission on earth.  Every blow you took like a total champ–even as you left this world, I know your cries weren’t because of pain, but sadness that those were our final moments as a family on this earth.  You have taught me to love courageously, to give my all to God….even if it is my most precious treasure.  You have taught me the importance of community, of gratitude, of patience and perseverance.

I will always smile when I remember your sweet little quirks–your lover for Mr. Lambie, how you would always look to see if Daddy or I were around, and the image of you smiling in your sleep.  I will always love your feistiness–how you tried to pull out your tubes how even hand restraints wouldn’t keep you from hitting people when they were doing an echo or ultrasound, how you always demanded to have your hands by your face, or on your face, or rubbing your werewolf ear or suspended in the air while you were sleeping, or gripping onto Daddy’s finger.

My most precious moments were the ones when I got to hold you for the first times–the day after you were born, a few days after your surgery, and today.  My heart will always long for you.

Viv, you did such a great job here.  If our ultimate goal is to leave the world better than we found it-you definitely did achieve the goal–what a victory.

Being your mom will always be an honor and a joy.  A breath-taking experience of God’s great love.  I know heaven is a much happier place since you arrived.

My precious Vivian, thank you for being here.  Thank you for choosing me to be your mommy.  Thank you for making us a family.  I will love you until forever.

St. Vivian, Pray for us!

I Love you Baby Girl,


vivian victory 2July, 2013 – A Tribute to Rod and Maria

Just as I had thought, Maria’s smile greeted me with genuine eagerness to see me; it was good to receive both their hugs.

It had been only ten months since they parted with little Vivian in the wee hours of the morning on September 21st, 2012 so I took extra care not to intrude into their sacred space.  But they were both eager to talk, and I was eager to listen to Rod and Maria share how their journey had continued. I admired their solidarity with each other. It was obvious that the pain and sorrow had stretched them and bonded their love to a higher degree. There was no bitter edge to their words; and no hesitation in their shared view of the blessed 59 days they had with Vivi who had spent all her days at Children’s Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Rod and Maria –

You claim Vivian’s Victory to be that she was victorious in bringing hearts to God – and I agree.

I met with you and I thought you would tell me how hard it had been since your Vivi left this world to be with God. But even though she took with her the core of your hearts, you still give thanks to God for choosing you to be her parents.   I saw that no matter how hard those 59 days were, you are happy that Vivi’s life was a special gift to you to share with others.  Your attitude of gratefulness is to be admired and desired. Your complete “yes” to   suffer without bitterness was your magnificat to God. Your right, Maria, no one will ever know or truly understand this suffering but you and Rod.  While other parents have had to go through similar journeys of the heart, no two journeys are the same when they are traveled side by side with Jesus.   I was moved by your words in recounting how you felt a portion of the passion Mary’s heart endured when she journey with her Son to the cross.

It is apparent that Vivi (which means life) was recruited by God to a mission where her broken heart would cause many to view life with greater respect and dignity.  And for you, she placed a jewel in your hearts to remain as a little victorious crown signifying the Glory of God that was at work.

Your eyes swelled with tears as you recounted how so many people supported your little family as you stayed at Vivi’s crib side hoping for a miracle.  In retrospect, as you contemplated Vivi’s life, you realized how God was massaging and refashioning hearts as you and Rod forged through each day with Vivi.

Rod’s strong words of love and compassion reminded me that there are many parents who go through similar experiences, but they are not prepared to handle the challenges emotionally or financially.

You witnessed first-hand while Vivi was in the NICU at Children’s that there were seriously ill newborn babies who did not have their parents at their crib side.  You felt a great sadness for both the babies and parents.  It is true, that there is such little awareness by our society that these little sick babies often do not have their mommies and daddies beside them because of financial reasons, or lack of preparation for such devastation in their lives.

You want to continue Vivi’s mission by helping others understand that life is fragile and sacred and that each moment is a blessing from God.

Rod, you so eloquently voiced that you and Maria want to help parents who have children that are seriously ill, or have suffered infant loss in any practical manner possible.  You take this as a grave responsibility that Vivi did not die in vain, but lived for 59 days to move hearts in many ways.

Your words were “we owe it to Vivi; she would want us to help others.  It would be selfish for us not to do so, especially where there is such a need. During Vivian’s stay at children’s we saw many babies whose parents could not be there with them.  We want to make it possible for working parents, or those that have financial hardship, to be with their babies as much as possible.”

Your pact with Vivian and God is coming to fruition when you hold the second annual fundraising walk-a-thon on Saturday, August 17th, benefiting parents that have been given a poor prenatal prognosis or have a child with special needs.   1heart2souls is joining you again in this effort and we will be praying and working to help this walk-a-thon be successful so that Vivian’s Victory can be a source of hope for others.

I thank you for meeting with me I am humbled by your compassionate hearts.  Contributed by Theresa Gray

Vivian’s Victory Walk-a-thon

1heart2souls thanks Rod and Maria for sharing Vivian’s story. We hope our readers will support their efforts to raise funds to assist parents to be with their babies while they are hospitalized or assist them when they send them off to heaven.  We are adding links to Maria and Rod’s blog and information on Vivian’s Victory Walk-a-thon in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Please see our facebook post for additional information or go to


A Tribute to Vivian Teresa …

 This post is long overdue.  We at 1heart2souls have gone through a “dry” time in our journey.  We have contemplated and prayed about our mission to help parents asking ourselves at times if our prayers truly make a difference.

Recently we watched a young couple hang on to the prayer of a miracle cure for their infant daughter, Vivian.  We read Maria’s  many uplifting posts on her blog, “God is Here!” while she sat at Vivian’s crib-side. So many who read her blog assured them prayers and sacrifices were being offered for a miracle cure. Relics were taken to bless their baby to obtain this miracle, grandparents offered God their assurances of all their trust, friends and siblings were vigilant in offering their hands and feet as well as their hearts in serving this family during their very difficult journey.  Vivian was born July 24th with  a condition called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome a condition that prompted the prayers of many, and by September the need for prayer became more urgent.

Friends,family,acquaintances, churches, nuns in convents, all pleading God to support this couple and heal this baby’s heart if  it was His will.

It was 430am September 21st and I had just returned home from time praying at our church’s adoration chapel.  I had an inclination to call Maria. I had felt so peaceful that morning after pleading once again for our Lord to hear our prayers for Vivian and her parents-asking again for a miracle if it was for His greater glory.  But I went on to bed thinking about Rod and Maria and how they must be at Vivi’s crib-side.   Around 8am I received a text that at 5:13am Jesus visited Vivian in the quiet dawn of the early morning to invite her home.  I have to admit, my heart sank and my tears were unrestrained.  My heart felt wounded similar to when my own daughter had suffered the loss of her twins, Hope and Grace.  I allowed myself to cry and allowed myself to tell God that my imperfections caused me not to be 100% happy that Vivi was not given an earthly life with her parents.

How quickly He let me know that His love for them was greater than I would ever understand.  So, I composed myself  after awhile and prayed in thanksgiving for Vivi’s  beautiful life.

We can only imagine what it must have been like.  Little Vivian awakened by a most beautiful lady and a court of angels creating and  lining a path for the brilliant light that was approaching her. .. no we cannot even begin to imagine how beautiful this moment must have been for Vivian, her final words of elation very well could have been “God is here!”…and there was likely no hesitancy except to longingly look at her parents and love them good-bye.

God’s will was fulfilled.  All prayers were answered.  We will be enlightened someday regarding our wonderment of “whys”.  But we know for sure that  many miracles did take place that day. Not only was Vivian’s heart permanently cured, but the soulsof many were miraculously healed as well.  Many souls, some that simply ran into Vivian’s story out of  “coincidence” are more compassionate, more giving, more caring, more loving as of September 21st than they were before July 24th, when Vivan was born into the lives of her two amazing parents, Rod and Maria.

Vivian’s victory was the victory over sin and eternal suffering.  She was victorious because by her suffering she left an everlasting gift to so many, especially to her parents. It is such mystery.  The same mystery as the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The pain of longing to be with Vivian will always be present.  There are no words that can take this pain away.  Only the love of others will provide her parents the solace and hope needed to make it to the end of their own life journey when they will one day truly be united with their little Vivian in a place where joy and peace perpetually exists.

“Jesus we trust in you! Vivian, you are now a saint in heaven, pray for us.”


-theresa gray

Families We Heart – The Yusko Family


Mother and Father’s Name:    Aleisa and William Yusko

Siblings’ Names:    Sophie (birth daughter), Gavin, Greta

Your Baby’s Name:     Nora Rose

  • Five words to describe the feelings you had about being a parent?

 Aleisa: challenging, rewarding, selfless, priceless, testing

William: rewarding, fun, responsibility, exciting, challenging

  •  What was it like finding out you were having a baby?

Aleisa: I was taken off guard, but excited about having a new baby in the house again! Nervous, but up for the challenge!

William: A little exciting.  A wake up call.  We’d been talking about adding to the family but hadn’t officially given it the okay.  We both wanted another child but wished we would’ve decided to do so a couple years earlier.  We weren’t really trying, but not preventing either. If it happened it was meant to be.

Siblings: Sophie was extremely excited. Gavin and Greta didn’t believe Mommy at first. Once they realized we weren’t kidding, they too were beside themselves!

  •  Tell us about Nora:    

When we first found out we were pregnant we decided that we were going to wait to find out if the baby was a girl or a boy. We were so excited for our 20 week ultrasound thinking the only thing we’d have to worry about is whether we’d have enough will power to decline the knowledge of the baby’s gender. A couple of soft markers lead to a level 2 ultrasound, which then brought us to an amniocentesis.  Based on the soft markers and our family histories we were given a 70% chance that this was a healthy pregnancy. Our “worst case scenario” was Down’s syndrome. While that was scary to think about, we would accept it if that were the hand we were dealt. The news that our baby has Trisomy 18 knocked us down to the floor. “Incompatible with life” resonated in our minds. Despite being given the option to terminate, we chose take a leap of faith and to carry to term. We were told our baby likely wouldn’t survive to term, even then it would be a lot to expect a baby with Trisomy 18 to make it through delivery. And on the off chance he or she survived delivery, we wouldn’t have long with our baby. Straying from our original plan of waiting to learn the gender, we decided to find out. We did that through a gender reveal cake. Our geneticist sent the big news to us in a sealed envelope which we gave to our friend and baker. When we took that first slice into the cake and saw that it was PINK we knew we were having a GIRL! We named her Nora Rose and treasured each day of my pregnancy with Nora as a part of our family, wondering if that might be all we would be given. Every little kick and jab was a precious gift. Nora remained very active on into the day of delivery. Her heartbeat was equally as strong. Without any complications except for our rattled emotions, Nora Rose arrived into this world with a big hearty wail! To embrace her and kiss her as she was placed up onto her Mommy’s chest was incredible and exhilarating! Just as quickly as that moment was given to us, it seemed to be wisked away. The nurse gently, but urgently removed Nora from our embrace. Nora’s heart rate had dropped dangerously low. We had requested that drastic measures to resuscitate not be taken, as they were often futile and could inflict unnecessary pain. We were urged to bring in our pastor. It seemed like that was the end. In absolute desperation we cried out to God to breathe life back into that baby, please spare her! The heavy silence that hung over the room was broken by a loud cry. Her heart rate was back to normal. After a few minutes she was back in her Mommy’s arms. We probably could have flooded the room with all of the happy tears! From that point on, Nora has decided to prove everyone wrong. She is a month old now as I write this. She requires only a little help with some oxygen, but is otherwise a “normal”, beautiful baby girl. She eats from a bottle on her own, she has her fussy periods, she loudly alerts us when she’s hungry, and she responds to our touches and our voices. We never could have imagined how precious this little life actually is. She is such a gift from God and we feel so incredibly blessed that He chose us to be Nora’s parents!

  • Why choose life: 

Initially it seemed senseless to carry to term. My first instincts were, “What’s the difference if the baby dies now or later? If the outcome is going to be the same, why prolong the inevitable?” Those thoughts were out of fear and emotion. My best friend pointed out to me, “We’re ALL going to die sooner or later…” Never were truer words spoken. I knew deep down in my heart that this unborn life had a purpose, I just wasn’t sure what that could be. It turns out that Nora’s purpose is way bigger than anything I could have ever tried to conjure up in my own mind! I’ve learned that if I can just release all of the control I think I have on life and let God be in charge, without a doubt He will sculpt it into something beautiful!

  • If you could do it all over again or change something, would you?

Aleisa: I would most definitely, without any doubt or hesitation, do this again. Nora Rose was worth every tear and every sleepless night. The only thing I would change is that we wouldn’t have worried so much! I can’t even say that I would change her extra chromosome because that’s part of what makes Nora who she is, and in my eyes she is perfect, beautifully and wonderfully made!

William: I would not have been so scared or worried.  I think of all my wasted sleep, time, and energy that went into worrying.  I wish now that I would’ve trusted God more than I did and that I’d been able to be the one who calmed my wife’s fears and worries.  I feel like those times were wasted opportunities for any joy or happiness during the pregnancy.  

  • If you could tell families in the same situation something, what would you tell them?

Aleisa: Rely heavily on your faith. God does not make mistakes. He WILL use each and every life He creates for His glory. Even in what we, in our limited perceptions would deem as unfathomable, I can promise it isn’t once you’re in the middle of it. Stay focused on the present moment, enjoy each day and each moment as they come without giving even so much as a fleeting thought about what you THINK the future MIGHT hold. God will give you all of the tools and perspective to deal with each new day and each set of circumstances as they come. It won’t be easy, but you will be richly blessed!

William:  Please don’t waste time worrying about the uncertainty and all the what if’s.  But with that said, It’s in our nature and nearly impossible not to worry no matter how strong our faith is.  I even remember reading accounts of other couples who offered up the same advice but I wasn’t strong enough to take it.   Instead of all the worry just Give up control and let it be.  Let God’s plan for your life play out and simply enjoy each day.  I would also add to share how your feeling with family and friends.  It sure did help knowing people around us were loving on us and praying for us.

  • If Nora could tell us all what’s in her heart, what do you think she would say?

Nora My tiny heart is so filled with love and gratitude for being given this life. You were told I might not live, the outlook was grim. You were given the option to end my life, but instead you took a chance on me and let me continue to grow where I was safe and warm in Mommy’s belly. This is just the way God made me. I don’t realize there is anything “wrong” with me or that there are statistics that imply I shouldn’t be here. All I know is what it is like to be loved. Because you gave me a chance, I get to experience the warmth of the sunshine, I get to hear the birds singing, I know the smell of spring time. Best of all I know what it’s like to be cuddled, kissed, hugged and stroked by my Mommy and my Daddy, my brother and sisters and all those who love me. My presence in your lives, no matter how long will bless you immeasurably. That’s just my little way of saying, “Thank you!”

Special Thanks:

Thank you so much to the Yusko family for participating in “Families We Heart” and being apart of our family at 1heart2souls.  We love you and will continue to pray for you!

<3 luci

If you would like others to continue to follow Nora’s story or would like to reach out to this family:



Donations to:

In honor of: Nora Rose Yusko

**Any donations received to 1heart2souls in honor of your child will be used towards our effort to provide healing blankets to parents, receiving blankets to babies, and in supporting our NICU fund at Children’s Hospitals.