The last three months have been an overwhelming roller coaster of good news, difficult news, procedures, surgeries, recovery, success and setbacks for Marshall County residents Trent Slaton and Alexis Beard's 3-month-old daughter, Oaklee Rayne Slaton.
The little girl was born with a heart defect and hasn’t left the hospital since her birth on July 20.
Slaton, lead singer of the band Country Case, and owner of The Yum Yum Tree restaurant in Albertville, has had to watch in horror and amazement as his youngest child fights for her life in the Children’s of Alabama Hospital in Birmingham.
Learning medical terms and all they can about Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, or HLHS, has been a daily education for Oaklee’s parents.
Country Case often performs in Arab, and area musicians are stepping up to assist the family at a free concert and benefit to raise funds for “A Heart For Oaklee,” to be held at the Space Age parking lot tomorrow, Friday, Oct. 30, beginning at 6:30 p.m.
Everyone is invited to stop by and get a BBQ plate dinner, participate in auctions, raffles and bring blankets and chairs to hear music by Brandon Elder.
Additional parking for the event will be available at Warehouse Discount Groceries across the street.
“We just wanted to help any way that we could,” Elder said. “We’re friends with all of the members of Country Case and we often trade out band members if someone can’t make a show. They use our bass player or we’ll use their drummer. Trent is such a great guy and anything we can do to try to ease his burdens, even just a little bit, we’ll try.”
Elder, a 2018 American Idol contestant who was viewed around the world on the national television singing show, will share the stage with prospective 2021 American Idol contestant Austin Byars, both of Union Grove, and two other bands, Don’t Think Twice and Traditions Rising, for the fundraiser.
Hope and faith aren’t just words for the Slaton family. It’s what they hold on to, with both hands and all their hearts, during each conversation they have with Oaklee’s doctors.
The words “heart transplant” for this infant has stumped the family, which is already struggling with mounting financial debts, as they pray every day for improvements in her condition.
Her parents calls it “faith based survival” at this point in meeting each challenge head on, one step at a time, and he’s had to put his faith in the medical staff that cares for his child in ways that he can’t.
“This daddy has had to learn that he can’t fix everything the way I’d like to,” Slaton said.
Oaklee has had one open heart surgery and doctors had to go back in to stop the bleeding twice, insert three drain tubes and two heart caths. She went into cardiac arrest and had to be put on life support for six days. While she was on life support, she had a stroke and started having seizures.
Her father says all 12 pounds of her is fighting to adapt to each setback.
As of press time, the family is again, in recovery mode from a serious surgery the baby had Tuesday, called the “Glenn” procedure.
“It’s another open heart surgery and she’ll go back on the breathing tubes until she recovers from this,” Slaton said.
The little boxing gloves fastened to her delicate hands are a symbol of all she has endured in her young life and the tenacious spirit that constantly amazes her parents.
“She’s a fighter,” Slaton said.
Waiting for him at home in Albertville are Oaklee’s three older sisters, Hannah and Brooklyn, who both got to meet their baby sister recently, and 3-year-old Izzy.
Some organizations, such as Ronald McDonald House, are charitable organizations that are often used to assist families of sick children, for extended stays near hospitals, and are located in states that are still shut down from the Covid-19 virus so those resources aren’t available to parents who need that important assistance during this pandemic.
“We have insurance and we were told not to worry until everything was over and they add everything up and we’re using Red Mountain Grace and paying everything through donations,” Slaton said. “We still need medical funding, lodging, food – it’s been more than 95 days being in Birmingham, not going home, travel back and forth when we do have to go home, gas, food – when you think about it, even in the cafeteria, it all adds up and it’s been difficult.”
Heather Reed, owner of Bottoms Up bar in Arab, has had Country Case perform in her restaurant and bar, and like most of their fans, and friends, has been following Oaklee’s progress on social media where pictures are posted, prayers are requested, and smiles on the 12-pound infant are adorned with love clicks.
She wanted to help and got together with Elder to organize the benefit and concert for tomorrow night.
“I’ve seen an innocent baby fighting for her life and anything I can to do to help her out, I’ll do it,” Reed said. “I don’t have kids, but if it was mine, I’d want my friends and family and community to care and try to help me and my loved one.”
Items to be auctioned and raffled off include many packages donated by area businesses including Arab Lumber, Marvin’s, Discount Building Supply, many gift certificates, a Halloween basket, outdoor gear gift cards, and a personal acoustic guitar, previously owned by Elder, and signed by Grammy-award winning country artist Jamey Johnson, among others.