The Rich Family

As parents of four children, Sean and Anne Rich were no strangers to the struggles, and blessings, of parenthood.

Their fifth child, Vivian, would come with challenges and rewards all her own.

It started when a co-worker’s presentation about caring for children with special medical needs struck a chord with Anne. It moved her and Sean to consider adoption. They wanted to help a child in the foster care system.

It wasn’t long before their case manager with Nebraska Children’s Home Society matched them with Vivian.

Vivian was born in Oklahoma, her mother addicted to drugs. She had a condition called gastroschisis which meant her intestines developed outside of her body. She would need a liver and small bowel transplant to survive.

That transplant, at Nebraska Medicine in Omaha, would change Vivian’s life forever.

Anne and Sean met Vivian when she was about 18 months old. She was still recovering from the transplant, weak and barely able to sit up on her own. She’d spent nine months in the hospital battling complications and organ rejection.

Anne, a transplant coordinator at Nebraska Medicine, had the training and know-how to care for Vivian. But she questioned if she and her family were ready for the difficulties of raising a child with such complex medical needs. “Having worked with transplant for so long, I didn’t know if I wanted to take that on as a parent,” she said. But she and Sean’s experience caring for their daughter with Down Syndrome eventually gave them the confidence to rise to the challenge. “We’d already been down that road. We knew we could do it.”

Vivian joined Anne, Sean, and siblings Tristan, Keira, Alexis and Eisley on Christmas Eve, 2015.

The Rich Family on Vivian's adoption day.

Their family quickly learned that with Vivian, things can change at the drop of a hat. “You have plans, but you just learn to roll with it,” Anne says. Getting used to her medical regimen was one of their biggest tests.

Today, the three-year-old has settled in nicely with her forever family. She loves Mickey Mouse, Dora, playing with her babies and pretending to be on the phone. “She’s been able to get to grow up a bit—learn what life is like outside of the hospital,” says Anne.

The Richs are hopeful that Vivian will soon no longer need her feeding tube. Beyond that, their hopes for her are no different than the ones they have for their other children. “…just to grow up and enjoy life. Be happy with who she is and what she’s doing. Transplant is part of who she is, not all of her.”

Vivian’s adoption became official in January.

She’s given Anne and Sean a new perspective on life and parenting. “Each day is a gift. Be thankful for that and don’t worry about the little stuff.”

Vivian’s transplant and happy ending were made possible because a generous family who lost their child said yes to donation. Please register to be an organ, tissue, and eye donor, and discuss the option of donation for your children, should tragedy strike your family.