Vanessa and I met Lauren Sapaugh when we were vying for the title of Miss Texas USA in the mid 2000s. Throughout the years, thanks to Facebook, baby showers, and weddings (of course), we’ve stayed in the loop on Lauren’s life and that of her family.
Several months ago, Lauren posted that her brother-in-law Tyson, tragically passed away. The details were unknown at the time, but what we did know was that Tyson left behind his beautiful wife, Kristin (Lauren’s sister) and twin daughters, Olivia and Eleanor.
The love story of Kristin and Tyson is one to be envied. Sweet love that turned into a beautiful marriage that turned into a young married couple trying to become a family. After three years of fertility struggles, Olivia and Eleanor were finally born in March of 2011. A complete family at last, “perfection” as Tyson would say. The Wallis Family lived happily in Houston and in January, their world was turned upside down. Kristin left her house for a regular day at work, kissed her husband and the kids, and out the door she went. A few hours later she received the phone call no mother/wife ever wants to receive and it was that her beloved husband (30 years old) was not breathing. They rushed to the hospital to learn that it was too late and Tyson passed from a previously undiagnosed and unknown ascending aortic aneurysm. After testing, it was determined that Tyson had a rare disease, Loeys-Dietz Syndrome that caused the aneurysm and his unfortunate passing. It’s also a genetic condition that will affect their twins, Olivia and Eleanor.
Fast forward to May/June. Olivia had liver testing done at John Hopkins and it was determined that her levels were seriously high. After additional testing, ultrasounds, and a biopsy it was determined that little Olivia had hepatitis. After additional testing they learned that Olivia’s condition was the worst possible and was drug-induced. Olivia was allergic to the drug, Losartan which is the only medication shown to lower blood pressure and stabilize the risk of Loeys-Dietz Syndrome. Olivia would be forced off the medication, because it was destroying her liver.
Lauren had been very good at giving updates regarding Olivia’s condition and honestly, I know for me I had hope that everything was going to turn around and Olivia would be well soon. Even when blood and plasma donations were being asked for, I still had faith that she would be okay. Even when Lauren said Olivia was being placed on the liver transplant list, I still just knew she would get that liver and would be healthy again. Then over this past weekend, everyone learned that Olivia wasn’t going to be okay and that she had possibly only a few hours to live. I, along with everyone on Facebook, Kristin’s blog, family, friends, churches, neighbors, and distant cousins immediately began a prayer rally… HARD prayers were needed by all. Everyone became so invested in Olivia and her mom. It didn’t matter that most of us had never met Olivia, it didn’t matter that some had never even met one member of this family, everyone was emotionally attached to this story. Nobody deserves to lose a husband, nobody deserves to lose a child, but it’s unimaginable to lose both within 6 months. So everyone prayed fervently and waited for news of a miracle for 16 month old, Olivia.
Olivia left this world far too soon. Sadly, this past Sunday she went to see not only her heavenly father but her daddy too. We can’t even begin to fathom the immense heartbreak this family is feeling. We shed many many tears on Olivia’s behalf. I held my son extra hard at bed time, rocked him extra long, and realized the fact that he isn’t potty trained or chewing is trivial in comparison to what some are facing. The only thing I can say is that this just isn’t fair.
We write to you today to share the love we feel for Olivia, a baby girl we’ve never met. We write to you today to share Kristin Wallis’ story. You can visit Kristin’s blog, here. We write to you today to ask for additional prayers for this family that has been struck by too many tragedies.
For more information regarding the Loeys-Dietz Foundation or to make a donation to the Tyson Wallis Memorial Fund, please click here.
Vanessa Barry & Allison Mack