Single dad raises newborn, mourns wife’s death
by Staff Writer
Mooresville resident Daniel Sifford and his eight-week-old daughter Isabel have a long journey ahead of them and it won’t be easy.
Sifford helps tiny infant “Izzy” – born 10 weeks earlier than expected on May 27 – through her “preemie workout” moving her diminutive arms and legs to slowly build her delicate muscles. Isabel’s eyes shift between her father’s face and a red toy monkey that hangs from her play set as she takes in the world her mother’s doctors didn’t expect her to see until July 31.
At 5-pounds, 5-ounces, Isabel’s made significant progress, more than doubling her weight since birth and feeding regularly. But for Sifford and Izzy the biggest obstacle – adjusting to life without Izzy’s mother Wyndi – still looms ahead.
“There are no hard parts when it comes to life with Izzy,” Sifford said. “She’s just the best, even-tempered baby anyone could ask for. The hard part is dealing with the loss of Wyndi.”
Twenty-nine-year-old Wyndi Bostic Sifford passed away June 20, less than a month after her daughter’s birth. The family’s nightmare began during Wyndi’s third trimester of what had been an uneventful pregnancy. She began complaining about swelling and abdominal pain.
Wyndi’s doctors diagnosed her with preeclampsia, a condition that causes high blood pressure during pregnancy.
The only way to treat preeclampsia safely, doctors told her, was to deliver the baby.
“Saturday (May 26) Isabel wasn’t kicking and she had been kicking pretty regularly up until then,” Sifford said. “I just couldn’t wait any longer and wasn’t going to risk anything else. The doctors told her that her preeclampsia had progressed and she needed to think about delivering.”
Wyndi was only concerned with Isabel, despite the heavy risk carried by giving birth. If preeclampsia was going to cause her to have a stroke, it would most likely happen on the delivery table.
“Wyndi wasn’t thinking about herself when they took her into the operating room,” Wyndi’s mother Fran Ellis said. “She was thinking about Isabel.”
On May 27, Wyndi gave birth to her daughter at 10:41 p.m. – baby and mother getting through the ordeal just fine. The worst had passed, they thought. Now Isabel just had to grow hardy enough to be discharged from the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit and the family could go home.
The Siffords spent days greeting friends and family in the hospital who dropped by to see Isabel for the first time.
“It was fun,” Sifford said. “It was a little stressful. For the first three or four days, I didn’t get much sleep, but we had so many people coming who wanted to see Isabel.”
The infant’s condition continued to improve to the point that Wyndi could feed Isabel her first bottle. Isabel had been feeding through an IV tube due to a developmental delay in her swallowing reflex.
“The smile that Wyndi had on her face at that moment – that’s how you really knew she was happy,” Robbie Ellis, Wyndi’s stepfather, said while holding a framed photo of Wyndi feeding Isabel.
But Wyndi didn’t seem to be recovering quite as well, suffering frequent debilitating dizzy spells.
By June 1, however, doctors deemed it safe to release her.
“And for the next two weeks, everything was fine,” Sifford said. “Her mobility was getting better, her pain was getting better, but the dizzy spells were getting worse.”
Then Fran Ellis found her daughter collapsed in a bathroom on June 16. Emergency room doctors discharged her at about 2 a.m. the next morning and Sifford took his wife to the Ronald McDonald House in Charlotte to rest.
Wyndi never woke up.
“I thought the medication would wear off after about 12 hours and she would start to come around, but she didn’t start to come around,” he said.
He called 911 around 3 p.m.
Wyndi had suffered a massive stroke, and the chances of recovery were devastatingly slim. The areas of the brain responsible for involuntarily bodily functions – respiration and heart functions – had been hit.
“They were surprised she was still breathing,” he said.
The next three days were surreal, like a terribly sad movie, Sifford said. On June 18, hospital staff held a christening ceremony for Isabel in Wyndi’s hospital room. The family placed the infant in Wyndi’s motionless arms while the ceremony took place.
“Imagine the most hellacious rollercoaster ride of emotions you can think of,” Sifford said. “Going from watching your little girl in the neo-intensive care unit to watching your wife lying there dying.”
On June 20 – Fran Ellis said she gave her daughter permission to die.
Sifford and his wife had been married for about 18 months.
Today, Isabel and her father are slowly adjusting to life without Wyndi. Isabel stays at home with her grandparents during the day while Sifford works as a valve technician for an industrial maintenance contractor. He returns to the Ellis’ home in Clover, S.C., after work to help Isabel with her preemie exercises.
Sifford said he also plans to leave the Mooresville townhouse he shared with Wyndi behind and move to Clover to be closer to Wyndi’s parents.
Fran Ellis is keeping a journal she plans to one day give to her granddaughter.
“I don’t want to risk forgetting anything as Isabel grows older,” Fran Ellis said.
Wyndi was a renowned pianist, and she hoped to surround Isabel with classical music.
Fran Ellis hopes to one day see Isabel’s long, tiny fingers on the piano keys.
Want to help?
Friends and family have set up an educational fund for Izzy through www.forizzy.org. There, Izzy’s fans can receive updates about her progress and posts memories about her mother.