Meet Maple, She is Beauty Revived
Photography by: Michelle Repolles
Story Written by: Rebecca Shaw
I knew I wanted to photograph Maple from the moment I found out about the Beauty Revived campaign. She has a remarkable story of resilience and grace in trials told by her mom, Becca:
At first glance you would never believe all this beautiful blonde haired, blue-eyed girl has been through, and all that she still manages on a daily basis. She seems like a normal kid who enjoys all things related to nature, art, words, handstands, cartwheels, and people. But if you hang around her long enough you may notice the Medic Alert bracelet she wears or the Ziploc bag of supplies she always carries to the bathroom. These are the trademarks of this little warrior’s journey.
Maple was born with a rare birth defect called bladder exstrophy. It’s a condition where the bladder and parts around it form inside-out. Before she was born we learned about the birth defect and were prepared to care for her exposed bladder until her first surgery.
At just two months old, Maple underwent a massive eight-hour surgery in order to close her tiny bladder, break and reform her pelvis, and reconstruct her female anatomy to look like a baby girl. She was put in an induced coma with more drains and wires hanging off of her than you could count. A purple Spica cast covered 75% of her body, accented with Hello Kitty tape around the rough edges where her surgical site was now healing.
The recovery process was slow with multiple set backs due to infection, but Maple remained stable and sported that purple Spica cast for a solid month. The drains were slowly taken out and her bladder began to fill up for the first time in her life. That was the true test. Thus, began a long stretch with frequent visits to the urologist, painful testing, countless medications forced down her throat, and reoccurring infections. Just before Maple’s first birthday her urologist was forced to ask her parents to begin catheterizing Maple every few hours because of the continuous bladder infections she was getting.
Unfortunately, the catheterization did not solve Maple’s most serious problem, which was the dilation her kidneys. So, Maple underwent another big surgery to re-implant her ureters. After pressing through another miserable recovery, sweet Maple continued to battle bladder infections for the next three years, causing her to be hospitalized multiple times for IV antibiotics.
When Maple was three, a routine renal ultrasound showed dilation in one of her kidneys again. Then she began to complain that she was unable to pee. This led us and her surgeon to plan her third major surgery. It was a two-fold operation in order to achieve social continence.
First, her bladder neck was tightened so she would not leak urine. Then a stoma was created using her appendix as a passageway from her bladder to her abdomen wall. The stoma is now a red fleshy spot below her waste line where she inserts a catheter to empty her bladder.
In most ways, the surgery was successful, but it wasn’t easy. Although we tried to prepare her for what the surgery and recovery would mean it was still a terrifying and painful time for Maple. A month after the surgery she began to catheterize her stoma. Thus, began a new way of life called “cathing.” Maple can now where panties, but she only empties her bladder by cathing every three or so hours (not peeing on the potty the traditional way). She will continue do this for her entire life.
This means that wherever Maple goes her cathing supplies go too. A Ziploc bag stays in her backpack with sterile supplies, and an extra one in my van just in case she forgets her backpack. While cathing is not fun or convenient it has allowed Maple to finally empty her bladder completely, which has made her a much healthier child.
Maple was named for the Bible verse Jeremiah 17: 7-8 that says,
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”
The tree described in these verses is one that endures difficult seasons, but in the end it is still able to bear fruit because of the source of water is draws from. This is the prayer over Maple’s life. A hope that she will put her trust in God, not her circumstances, and as a result her life would bear wonderful fruit for all to see.
Short Bio of Photographer
I am a family, newborn, and senior photographer based out of the greater Montgomery, Alabama area. I am passionate about photography because it gives me the unique power to pause a sweet moment, an expression, and turn it into a treasure for my clients. I love capturing the smallest of details. Photography has pushed this introverted entrepreneur to step out of my comfort zone and celebrate living beyond my natural tendencies. I get giddy over all of the doors it’s opened and relationships it has cultivated. Clients become friends and photos become heirlooms.
Most weekends you’ll find me at a session or with my family (my husband and two boys). When I’m not editing images or learning my craft, I’ll be trying out new recipes or learning all things related to health and wellness.