An inspiration for moms all around

St. John's mom tells all just in time for Mother's Day

Livia Paula, Features Editor Emeritus

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Seven years ago on Valentine’s Day, Shanice Lyons was surprised with a gift that would change her life forever. While the holiday is filled with hearts, gifts and romance, the gift she received was one of a kind – a blessing in disguise that might terrify many young women, men and their families.

Lyons discovered she was pregnant on Feb 14, 2009. The then 16-year-old was shocked.

“I couldn’t believe I was so irresponsible. I knew better. I knew to be safer,” she said. “But I knew I was keeping her. No matter what changes were about to come.”

Lyons is a St. John’s University junior pursuing a degree in legal studies with a minor in criminal justice. She transferred from Nassau Community College, where she completed her Associate in Applied Science degree in paralegal studies.

Now, 23-year-old Lyons has been balancing life as a student and a mother. She also works as a legal assistant at RAS Boriskin LLC, a law firm in Westbury, New York. Upon graduation, she aspires to work within the Special Victims Unit within the police department or with administrative legal work within a law firm.

Being a young mother and an ambitious student at the same time sounds challenging on their own. In Lyons case, the patience, care, and hope associated with motherhood carried an even deeper meaning, as her daughter depends on her on a level that most children don’t.

Her daughter, Victoria Nicole, was born on Oct. 12, 2009. Nicole was diagnosed with Optic Nerve Hypoplasia, the underdevelopment of the optic nerves, and Nystagimus, the constant uncontrollable movement of the eyes. She was only three months old.

“I was also told that she was legally and fully blind in both of her eyes,” Lyons said. “Shortly after this diagnosis, Victoria started to have constant fevers, vomiting, abnormal crying, screaming and slight signs of epilepsy,” she added.

According to Lyons, CT scans and MRI’s were performed during Nicole’s hospitalization period. The MRI showed an intraventricular arachnoid cyst on the right side of her brain and it was bigger than a golf ball.

“At the age of 7 months, she had her first surgery on the cyst,” she said. “Following that surgery, Victoria got an infection on the incision sight and contracted para-influenza, which placed us back into the hospital,” Lyons recalled.

After a long period being hospitalized, they were finally able to go home. Unfortunately, their “homey” feeling didn’t last long. At 12-months, Nicole began presenting the same symptoms from before. The cyst returned larger than the first time, and the doctors performed an endoscopic surgery.

“During this procedure, Victoria started to bleed out due to a Factor VII deficiency, a blood clotting issue,” she said. “She then had to receive a blood transfusion.”

Nicole was sedated for more than 24 hours and was linked to numerous needles and machines.

“When she was finally off of sedation, that’s when I knew my daughter was not the same,” Lyons said. “She was like a newborn all over again. No babbling. No crawling. No rolling. Just as stiff as a newborn,” she said.

Nicole wasn’t drinking from her “sippy cup,” and was refusing all solid or pureed foods.

“All she wanted was breast milk and to sleep,” she recalled. Nicole had lost a significant amount of weight by 16 months, weighting only 16 pounds.

“[Nicole] was so thin that you could just about see her ribs impression on her flesh,” Lyons said.

According to her, the doctors made the decision with her consent to place a feeding tube through her nose into her stomach.

“She stayed on the feeding tube for 10 hours a day and supplemented with breast milk any other time,” Lyons said. It took seven months before Nicole started using her sippy cup again.

Nicole is now six-years-old. Time passed by, but a lot still remains the same.

“She still doesn’t sleep through the night and wakes up for her feedings and diaper changes,” Lyons said. “Despite the work from her numerous therapists (occupational, physical, speech, feeding and vision) she is still behind in the stages of development as per her age.”

Nicole now weighs 85 pounds and is 4’1 with an extensive list of disabilities. She is blind, developmentally delayed, epileptic and has brain abnormalities. She doesn’t have her frontal lobe and the right side of her brain is smaller than the left.

Lyons took on this great responsibility with the help of her family, but she couldn’t count on Nicole’s father.

“At the time when I found out I was pregnant I was still dating my daughter’s father. He was three years older than me,” she said. “We broke up when I was five months pregnant.”

According to Lyons, he wouldn’t support her decision of keeping the child. She took herself out of a relationship filled with verbal abuse and negativity.

“I lost my parents to domestic violence and I wasn’t about to put myself or my unborn child through that type of situation,” she said. Nicole’s father is still not part of their lives.

“We don’t need negativity in our lives,” she said.

Even though her family was shocked at first, they were always very supportive.

“My daughter has honestly helped us all build a closer bond,” Lyons said.

One of the biggest challenges Lyons had faced, besides dealing with the exhausting schedule of balancing her responsibilities, was to ignore people’s opinions around her.

“Sometimes people stare at my daughter because she does things that are not considered “normal,” she said. “But she does what her mind tells her to do.”

She also said that what bothers her the most is that the people who usually stare are adults, and that they should “know better.”

Lyons believes that she hasn’t changed much as a person since Nicole’s birth because she has had a special love for handicapped children from an early age.

Luckily, Lyons is able to work her schedule around her daughter’s school and therapy services so she can be with Nicole and still have the time to work on her own responsibilities.

“Everyone is different and I believe no one should be grouped but rather individualized,” Lyons said.

“I made a promise to my daughter. I wrote her a letter while I was pregnant letting her know that I wouldn’t fail her. People judged me, but I have never cared much about the opinion of others. I know who I am and what I’m capable of. Not them.”

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