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