Bonney Lake resident Amy Miller was 20-weeks pregnant when she discovered her daughter, Kelahna Miller, was to be born with spina bifida.
Kelahna underwent her first surgery at 4-hours old and has since had more than 40. As a way to encourage and honor Kelahna, the Bonney Lake Police Department is sponsoring her as their 2014 Chief for a Day.
“We still don’t know who nominated Kelahna for the Chief for a Day program but it has been such a blessing,” Amy Miller said.”She is usually pretty shy but has been coming out of her shell when with the officers and Jaime at the (police department). It has made her feel so special to be a part of the BLPD family.”
The Washington State Criminal Justice Training Center holds the biennial celebration, in which chronically-ill children, ages 3 to 14 years old, are honored by law enforcement agencies statewide. They are given the opportunity to socialize with each other and enjoy a day devoted to them, not their illness. They will each arrive in a limousine and be sworn in during a formal ceremony. Demonstrations will be provided by K9 units, SWAT teams and more.
In addition to the Chief for a Day event in August, Kelahna’s new position as Bonney Lake’s “chief” means she will be seen at local events and in the police department periodically throughout the year, often in her official police uniform.
Kelahna has been an inspirational addition to the police department, records clerk Jaime Amsbaugh said.
“I feel that the department has been blessed by having Kelahna as part of our family. When you see her smile, you would never know the struggles she deals with daily. Her smile is so contagious. She is a true gift to everyone that has a chance to meet her. I am so thankful she accepted the position as Chief for a Day 2014,” she said.
Despite her bright and sunny disposition, Kelahna suffers from hydrocephalus and Arnold-Chiari malformation, as well as several other complications resulting from her struggle with Spina Bifida.
There is no cure for her condition but Kehlana and her family draw strength from facing each day a step at a time, Amy Miller said.
“We take everything day by day, sometimes minute by minute. If we dwell on the past or look too far in the future it is simply too overwhelming,” she said. “Kelahna is a blessing to everyone that meets her. Her smile is infectious.”
Kehlana recently received an evaluation and healthcare summary from Seattle Children’s Hospital. It showed 1,100 doctor appointments with more than 250 physicians, and 250 diagnostic imaging procedures like X-rays, CT scans and MRIs. Her daily routine involves several hours of medical cathing, BiPAP, braces and wound care.
The family was drowning in healthcare costs, Amy Miller said, so Kelahna’s father went back to school after being a dental hygienist for eight years. It was the only option they had, because Amy Miller said she stays home in order to provide daily medical care.
“Tim decided to go back to dental school to help offset Kelahna’s medical expenses,” she said. “We had to do something. We had already sold our home and cashed in our retirement accounts so we took a giant leap of faith.”
Spina bifida is the most common birth defect in the country, the cause remains unknown, and it results in permanent disabilities, according to the Spina Bifida Association. Kelahna is wheelchair-bound but recently learned how to stand using forearm crutches.
The department is raising money for Kelahna and her family as part of the Chief for a Day program. Donations can be made at the police department, or through an online auction. Many items are available, but three Seahawks-themed wooden signs were donated on behalf of the Bonney Lake Police Department. To place a bid, please visit the Chief for a Day online auction website.
Kelahna attends Daffodil Valley Elementary and lives in Bonney Lake with her mother, father and four siblings. She enjoys reading, crafts and girl scouts. When she grows up, she wants to be a dentist like her father, she said.