1771 NC

Jamysen Howard

A story about funding a fighting chance for a precious little girl. Jamysen got that chance, and hasn’t stopped amazing people since.


Five-year-old Jamysen Howard is fearless. She’ll climb anything on the playground, and she can keep up with her daddy on a mud run. She’ll wipe out her entire family in a friendly Nerf gun war, and just a little piece of advice – you better steer clear of her when she is doing her karate kicks. She may be small, but she is mighty.

Watching Jamysen grow over the past five years has been nothing short of amazing for her family. The feisty little girl everyone knows today was once extremely fragile.

Tonya Howard was 11 weeks pregnant when she and her husband, Tray, found out something was wrong with their unborn child. The baby would be born with a severe birth defect called gastroschisis. The small intestine formed outside the body, and the baby would require immediate surgery after birth.

Over several gut-wrenching days and weeks, Tonya and Tray weighed their options, absorbed all the medical advice they could from their doctors and prayed.

At the time, there was no pediatric surgeon at Vidant Medical Center, but one had recently been hired. His name was Dr. David Rodeberg. Unfortunately, Dr. Rodeberg’s start date was not until after Tonya was set to deliver her precious baby girl. But then talks began. What if Dr. Rodeberg could come early? Was there a way to make that happen? Yes, there was.

Tonya, who works at East Carolina University, had the opportunity to talk to Dr. Rodeberg on the phone. She never actually met him until the day Jamysen was born. After she had given birth, a man appeared, Tonya said. “I remember him peeking around the corner and saying, ‘Hi, I’m Dr. Rodeberg and I’m going to take care of your baby.’” It was such a welcome sight. “I actually told him I loved him,” Tonya said.

Jamysen’s surgery lasted 5 hours. Tonya and Tray got to see their newborn that evening. “She was in a lot of pain,” Tonya said. “You could tell she was uncomfortable.” 

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But Jamysen proved to be a fighter early on. She was able to start feedings 10 days after she was born. That’s about 20 days ahead of schedule for a baby who has undergone that type of surgery. In less than a month, much to everyone’s surprise, Jamysen was ready to come home.

“Today, you would never know there was anything wrong with her,” Tonya said. There are no lingering side effects of the gastroschisis or surgery.

Jamysen celebrated her 5th birthday July 14. She had a party, got her ears pierced and lost her first tooth. Nope, never a dull moment.

Through the generosity of many donors, the Vidant Health Foundation has been able to fund life-saving technologies for providers to use at the Children's Hospital. It's all to ensure eastern North Carolina has access to the best available care. See what your money can do.

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