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An Update On Baby Irene

Irene Harrington, a happy child

If you’ve been following this blog for at least two years, you probably know about the plight of Irene Harrington, a daughter of Father Matthew Harrington and his wife Anna. Father Matthew was the priest at St. John the Theologian Orthodox Mission in Starhill. When his wife Anna became pregnant with their fourth child, they discovered early on that Baby Irene would have severe birth defects, and that both the pregnancy and the delivery would be life-threatening for Anna. But they told the doctors in no uncertain terms that terminating the pregnancy was not an option, and would not be discussed. This is what it means to be deeply and authentically pro-life.

As a clergy family in a mission parish, and with Matushka Anna (as Orthodox priest wives are called) having to quit her job to go on full bed rest due to the high-risk pregnancy, the Harringtons had very little money. A friend of their started a GoFundMe to help defer the costs of caring for Irene. People all over the country, including more than a few readers of this blog, responded with extraordinary generosity.

The Harringtons moved back to their home state of Washington last fall. Irene has been receiving medical care there. Tonight, the Harringtons posted this update on Irene’s condition to the GoFundMe site:

We are sorry for the long lapse in updates but we have been waiting to complete some major appointments so we can more accurately update our wonderful supporters. Irene has been busy growing and really has benefitted in many ways since our move. She has her own corner in the living room where we keep a medium sized mirror at ground level. This has really improved her ability to use both sides of her body as the mirror allows her to see and activate her right side. She also loves to look at things in the mirror including any new treasures or fashion items she has found. She is getting good practice at wearing her glasses but continues to have vision difficulties and limitations. We have started having home visits from an occupational therapist and will start having appointments with speech, physical, and vision therapist as well.
Since our last update, Irene has had serval major appointments including MRI and 3D CT scans. Having the current scans have allowed her team to see how to proceed in treating Irene’s condition. Some of the issues that were shared so far include the discovery of what is actually inside the growth that covers her right eye area. It appears that it is a type of teratoma that includes tooth, bone, tissue, as well as part of her pituitary gland and another gland that belongs in the brain. Her right eye never developed but instead behind that growth is a very large cyst which is taking up a lot of space. Up to this point, the cyst has been beneficial and allowed the eye socket to grow without the aid of surgical spacers. However, that time may be coming to an end and the cyst will likely need to be removed. This will prove difficult. There are many irregularities with her her brain formation and skull. In addition to her MRI, a 3D CT scan showed us the severity of her spinal scoliosis. It’s a complicated case. Although her spine curvature continues to worsen as she grows the Pediatric Orthopedic surgeon would like to allow her more time before any surgical intervention. However, because of the severity, surgery is the only possibility to help correct her spine. We’re just buying a little more time before we begin that process. She will see a pulmonologist regularly to ensure that lung function will not be impacted on her affected side as she continues to grow. The good news is that the MRI gave a more detailed view to reveal that she has no tethering of the spine. Now we wait. Specialists and Surgeons continue to meet about her case with the new information to decide how to proceed. It was really upsetting to see the scans. It’s hard to see how deformed and different things look on the inside. It is a stark reminder that she is truly miraculous and she continues to be as she grows and develops physically and cognitively.

We wish we knew more about how things will progress and it is always hard to hear about how difficult and complicated Irene’s situation is. The specialists continue to say her case is “unique”. We are reminded, how blessed we are to have her in our lives. She is a light of love and laughter and is constantly reminding us of the tender mercies that God has showered upon us. She is full of God’s grace. Irene will often come running through the house to our table at dinner time when she hears the Lord’s prayer, crossing herself and bowing making it very difficult to keep a straight face. She loves it when dad lays on the floor so she can climb over him, a brief moment of attention to dad, as she tags along closely with mom at all times. Anna’s health is wonderful. She has had good reports from her doctor and is busy continuing to pour her energy and time into all of Irene’s needs, coordinating her therapy, and all of her medical visits. We will continue to update you as we get new information. As for now, please know how much we love you and appreciate your prayers for our little family.

If you are so moved, please give what you can to help this little girl and her family, who continue to be an incredible witness to life.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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