By Richard Whitby
The Daily Star
---- — Bailey Tomas has been through a lot in her four and a half years.
Born at 2 pounds, 2 ounces, she’s had one open-heart operation, faces another and — probably before she’s 10 – will need a new heart.
The Unadilla girl is a triplet, but on first glance it’s hard to identify her siblings. They are nearly a head taller and 20 pounds heavier.
Bailey was born with a hole in her heart and a blocked valve.
“They knew something was wrong as soon as she was born,” her mother, Bambi Tomas, said.
“The hole was so large and the murmur so big, you could see it on her chest.”
The defects required surgery at a Syracuse hospital when Bailey was just 7 months old, and the operation nearly killed the infant, who weighed a mere 7 pounds.
“They brought the priest in a couple of times,” her mom said.
Bambi Tomas said she tells Bailey’s sister, Hannah, and brother, Antonio, that “Bailey was born with a broken heart.”
“They know that she has to have an operation,” Bambi Tomas added. “They know that she’s already had one.”
The family found out in May that a transplant wasn’t just a possibility; it would be a necessity, Bambi Tomas said.
She said she asked the surgeon if he meant Bailey would need the operation around, say, age 30. His reply was chilling.
“We’re hoping to get her into early adolescence,” she quoted him as saying.
But before she gets to that point, Bailey is going to have one memorable week in Orlando, Fla., thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Central New York.
The organization, which grants the wishes of ailing children, chose Bailey — and the rest of her family — for a week at Give Kids the World, a “storybook” resort in Orlando built specifically for children like Bailey.
Bailey found out about the trip at a surprise party Tuesday night at Panni Pizzeria in Unadilla.
Kelly O’Brien Shumway of Make-A-Wish was on hand as the tiny girl with light brown hair, big brown eyes and a shy smile walked through the door to a chorus of “Surprise!” from family members.
“I can’t imagine anything worse than having a sick child,” Shumway said.
The Make-A-Wish volunteer said she has attended about five such events during her time with the organization.
“It can get emotional,” she said.
The Tomas family will also get a three-day pass to Disney attractions, including Walt Disney World, plus a two-day pass to Universal Studios Orlando and a one-day pass to Sea World Orlando.
The week-long stay later this month will give the family a chance to relax and forget its tribulations for a while, Bambi Tomas said.
The drumbeat of bad news might tear apart some families, but Bambi Tomas, says her family – she’s one of 12 children – has rallied around her.
“We grew up poor, but proud,” she said. “We took are of what we had.”
“It’s the kind of values my husband and I want to instill in our children: It’s not what’s under the tree on Christmas, it’s who’s around it,” she said. “If make a wish has come today and brought Bailey a stuffed animal, she would have been thrilled.”
Bambi Tomas said she was recently laid off from Amphenol Aerospace Operations in Sidney, and even though her daughter is covered by the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, a federal initiative, she’s not sure whether a transplant will be covered.
Her husband, Antonio J. Tomas, works construction, and it was her income and health insurance that had helped the family keep going.
Nevertheless, she remains optimistic.
“I come from a big family,” she said. “I’m one of 12, so we will do it.”