Community with heart: Reva neighbors put up hay for newcomers
Story update: Baby Susy was born July 10 and is doing well. According to Jen, Susy’s first surgery will be Friday, July 13.
“It’s called the Norwood procedure. It uses a shunt the size of a cocktail straw to connect the right ventricle of the heart (which usually only send blood the lungs) to the aorta to send blood to the body. The surgery is not extremely stable – due to the nature of the tiny shunt- so the time between the first two surgeries is critical.” Jen said Susy is expected to undergo surgery again in October or November.
Will Meyer knows he should make hay while the sun shines, but when he’s two states away from his hayfield awaiting the birth of his fourth child, raking and baling are tough to do, no matter the weather conditions.
The Reva, South Dakota rancher, and his wife learned earlier this spring that their unborn daughter has a heart condition that will require surgery immediately following her arrival.
Tom Fabris, the Meyers’ neighbor, said he has been thinking since branding time that his friends might need some help putting up their hay.
“I talked to Will about it and he said he thought he could get most of it done before he left for Colorado. But then we’ve been blessed with several rain showers, and he was only able to get a few acres put up before he had to leave.”
Fabris said that when the Meyers left for Colorado with their three boys, he contacted Will’s dad, Dean Meyer to see if he’d be interested in helping put up the hay. He was.
“I said there’s a bunch of us who want to put up their hay if we can get together. He wanted to help, too.”
Dean Meyer traveled from Dickinson, North Dakota, to help several neighbors cut, rake and bale about a quarter-section of alfalfa and wheat hay.
“I think there were seven balers there this morning, and a couple of guys brought loaders over and as soon as we were done with baling they were hauling the bales to the edge of the field. I think we were done in about two and a half hours,” said Fabris, who is quick to thank the many neighbors who helped with the project, and even those who wanted to help but were unable to do so. Scheduling all of the help for cutting, raking and baling – not knowing ahead of time when the hay would be ready, for example – was a bit sticky, but it all worked out, he said.
Fabris said severe weather has gone through the area several times lately, and one evening when the hay was laying down, a strong wind scattered a lot of hay – but left the Meyer hay relatively untouched.
“Somehow, miraculously, we dodged a bullet with that storm. We actually got some really nice hay put up, so I’m really happy about that,” he said, adding that the quality of hay in that area is good this year, and quantity is about average.
Will Meyer said that in February, he and Jen learned that their daughter was dealing with hypoplastic left ventricle syndrome, which means the left side of the heart does not develop as it should, and blood flow is affected. “Of course it was kind of a shock. We have three boys – Evan (12), RJ (10) and Slate (5), so we thought we had this parenting thing down.”
The couple – he an insurance agent on the side, and she a chiropractor – and their three boys traveled to Colorado a few days ago so that baby Susy can be born at Colorado Children’s Hospital in Aurora, just east of Denver.
The baby will require surgery at only about 3-5 days old, said Meyer. Until about 30 years ago, no treatment for babies with HLVS existed, and they were not expected to survive. But with surgeries, many are now living normal lives.
“Some kids need a heart transplant at age 10, and some are playing soccer at age 10, you just don’t know. Heart function could be limited, but they can live a normal life,” he said.
The little girl will need another surgery at about 5-6 months of age, and another at around three years.
Meyer joked that he was worried about the expense of buying a barrel racing horse when he learned he and his wife would have a girl. “I guess she’s just getting us used to the idea of spending money on her,” he laughed.
The young family moved from Dickinson to the Reva, South Dakota, area, about three years ago, and they don’t regret it.
Jen said that she and Will have made friends with a couple whose five year old son is also a “heart warrior,” plus older siblings – one who is her son’s age – and the family has been extremely supportive.
“Just having the school and community already aware of this heart condition and the life long repercussions it has, has made it much easier to tell everyone, especially the kids. They have really reached out, and despite how hard it must be, the support they have shown us has been very helpful.”
“We thought we would be the ones helping our neighbors out, volunteering in the community. This has been really amazing,” he said.
“We’re really thankful to have the neighbors we do. They said ‘don’t worry, we’ll take care of your hay,’” said Meyer.
Living in that community, little Susy will no doubt have an extra strong heart, just as her family and neighbors do.
“It was pretty emotional for both Jen and I seeing the pictures of the crew and the hay,” said Will.