The "Pratt Pack" (Photo: Facebook)
Amy Pratt and her children were on an hour long-car ride to the doctor -- all five had the flu. The kids though are no stranger to the doctor's office or hospitals. In total, the Pratt's five children, ages 8 to 2, have had 20 surgeries collectively.
"My chest hurts, mommy," one of the boys could be heard saying from the back seat.
"I know, honey, that's why we're going to the doctor," Amy said.
"I hope I don't have to get surgery," the boy replied.
Instead of his worst fear being a shot at the doctor's office, for the Pratt children, surgery is a frequent reality.
Meet the 'Pratt Pack'
When Amy and her husband Jason had their first child Spencer, doctors said the odds of his condition were like that of winning the lottery -- except not with a cash prize at the end.
Spencer, now 8 years old, has had 11 surgeries since birth. He was diagnosed with Trachealesophageal Fistula, which in short is where the esophagus doesn't develop properly. The way Spencer's esophagus had formed -- or not formed -- allowed air to pass into his stomach and intestines and food to pass into his lungs. He had his first surgery a few days after birth and spent more than four months in the neonatal intensive care unit. He has more digestive complications and disorders as well.
At the time Spencer was more than they could handle, but it wasn't too long before Amy was pregnant again, even after she had been on birth control.
MacKenzie, 7, was born with complications as well. She had holes in her heart, which closed naturally as doctors suspected they would. Still, MacKenzie went in for her first surgery just this past Tuesday.
The Pratt's struggles didn't stop there. When Quinten, now 6, was born he too had severe heart complications and has had two surgeries. Bryton, 3, has similar conditions to Spencer, except eating was physically impossible for him. Bryton has had seven total surgeries and was recently fitted to use leg braces and a wheelchair.
Spencer and Bryton (Photo: Facebook)
The Pratt's fifth child, 2-year-old Kyden, was born without any complications. But that doesn't stop Amy from worrying.
"I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop," Amy said. "He's had a couple ear infections, is allergic to red food dye and now he has the flu."
As a whole, the situation of her children is hard for Amy to wrap her head around.
"For a long time, I would look back at the pregnancies [...] and think if I could have done any thing different," she said. "It is hard for me to understand when I see people doing stupid stuff, like smoking or drinking, and they have perfectly healthy babies."
MacKenzie, Spencer and Kyden. (Photo: Facebook)
The family is undergoing extensive genetic testing but so far nothing conclusive has been found.
"The way I choose to deal with it now is understanding that not a lot of people can do my job," Amy said. "God must have chosen me with a special job in mind."
The Pratt children play like any other children but with modifications.
"Everybody health issue or not, everybody lives life through modifications," Amy said. "I just want them to live the best life they possibly can ...to not look down on themselves because of the things they can't do."
When one of her children is in the hospital, Amy stays with that child constantly. She said it's where she's supposed to be. Her husband, however, takes off work to be with the other children. Amy's parents -- who aren't too far away from their Texas town -- step in occasionally, but they have their own lives too, Amy said.
The Pratt's keep more than 4,000 Facebook followers informed about their family, but most of the page is used to raise "prayers and praise" for other people who are in need as well.
Making a dream come true
Amy's dream for her children is like that of any parent: that they would grow to live healthy, happy and fulfilled lives.
She was researching her sons' condition online when she found a woman in a similar situation doing just that -- making the most of her life. Jamie Holmes, who has had 45 surgeries associated with complications of VATER's syndrome, is the founder of Jamie's Dream Team, a wish granting organization for people in need.
"I remember being intrigued and wanting to talk to her," Amy said. Since the more severe conditions of Spencer and Bryton are full of unknowns, seeing what Jamie has made of her life gave Amy hope for her children.
Holmes said she is pleased that her accomplishments can inspire what a future could look like for the Pratt children.
You might remember Holmes from previous stories we've done. We first heard of Holmes and Jamie's Dream Team when she was making headlines for helping give a trip to Disney World to a cancer survivor in Ohio whose wish was originally rejected by the Make a Wish Foundation. Intrigued by Holmes' smaller wish-granting operation, which has done a lot in the Pennsylvania area, we profiled Jamie and her non-profit. Holmes' efforts have also received a lot of national press recent for helping throw a wedding for Alissa Boyle, a 23-year-old who became paralyzed in a roadside accident while she was helping another driver who fell asleep at the wheel. Boyle's fiancé had only proposed to her two days prior to the accident.
Watch this local news story after Boyle's accident last year:
Another video shows Boyle recovery and her Sept. 2013 wedding:
If you read our profile on the 25-year-old, you'll know that Holmes dreams big. When Amy contacted Holmes to ask questions about her life, Holmes drafted up some big goals for what she wanted to do with the Pratt family, which was also rejected by Make a Wish because their children weren't chronically ill enough, Amy said.
Holmes said she is currently fundraising to send the family on a vacation' to purchase them a new car (their current SUV has 200K miles on and having a reliable vehicle is vital for all the doctors' appointments that sometimes add up to 2,000 miles per week); and to find them a new home (the family currently rents making it difficult to make modifications to the home for their children's needs).
Holmes is striving for at least a vehicle with fewer miles and a vacation. She acknowledged that a house might be difficult to come by, but "you never know," she said.
As for the Pratt Pack, Amy said she's watched her children go through so much. Spencer wasn't expected to walk or talk -- he does both and more. She was told some of her children weren't potty trainable due to bladder damage, but the Pratt's have proved those odds wrong, too.
"It's just how much you are willing to put in and I am in it for the long haul," Amy said. "I wouldn't trade them for anything in the world."