The first time Cameron and Kiante Green looked into the face of their newborn baby girl, they knew their lives had changed forever. They had prayed for her. They shed tears and pleaded with God to heal in utero, the child doctors told them would be born with neurological delays if she lived at all.
Everyone at Graceway prayed for the couple, their oldest son, Jayden, now 7, and their unborn baby girl.
At a later visit to the doctor’s office, doctors couldn’t find a thing wrong with Cameron and Kiante’s unborn child. She appeared as normal as any other, they were told. And they were happy. A miracle, or so it seemed.
Alayla was born a month early on August 10, 2012. “You could tell by her features something was wrong,” Cameron said. One of the first things he noticed was that her feet turned inward. Alayla would have special needs. She was unable to latch to her mother’s breast. Alayla stayed in the hospital for 2 months before the Greens could bring her home.
To this day, four years since her birth, Alayla has never taken food through her mouth. All her nourishment is given through a g-tube. She has been in and out of the hospital so many times the Greens are hard pressed to recall each visit. She doesn’t speak, or walk, or do most anything other children do. Machines feed her oxygen and she is confined to a wheelchair. A towering bookshelf is stocked full of myriad medications and medical supplies in a colorfully decorated little girl’s room. Every now and again, Alayla smiles – when her baby brother, Aiden 1, kisses her swollen cheeks and sits next to her watching cartoons with his tiny hand resting atop of hers.
Cameron and Kiante know Alayla, like Aiden and Jayden, is a blessing.
Challenge is something Cameron has never shied from. The 27 year old grew up in one of Wyandotte’s rough neighborhoods. His father was in his life but not in the home. He was raised by his mom “a true follower of Christ,” Cameron says. Growing up, he was in church every Sunday. “My mom tried to instill Christ in us. She was sowing seed,” he said.
In high school, Cameron was a star on the basketball court. “I was a cool guy and very popular,” he recalled. “If my academics were better if I had taken things more seriously, I probably would have gone to a Division I school.”
His family didn’t have much money. “But I had a good mama. She always made sure we had food on the table, shoes on our feet and clothes on our backs,” he said. “She did that with the guidance of God. There were times when I was playing AAU basketball in the summer and she would give me some of her bill and gas money to go on game trips, to make sure I had what I needed.” He remembers too that, “Mama didn’t spare the rod when we needed it. But she did it with love.” Cameron has always been outgoing. The kind of young man that older men in the community wanted under their wing.
When he was 13, he met Pastor Chuck Allen, who ran the Urban Scholastic Center in Kansas City, Kan., a Christian-centered youth group. Allen invited Cameron to join. Cameron went.
Then there was his godfather, the father of an elementary school buddy. “He pretty much took me in like a son and was my father, Cameron recalled. “I would stay with them weeks at a time. He gave me love and discipline,” Cameron said. “I just felt like he had a big heart. He modeled fatherhood for me.”
Cameron and Kiante were both out of high school when they met on the internet. He stumbled across her MySpace page and sent her a message. “She was beautiful and she seemed like someone I could talk to,” Cameron recalled.
Kiante, 27, grew up near Grandview, middle class, in a two-parent household. She was shy, played violin in the school orchestra, and was a fun loving person. When Kiante met Cameron in 2007, she had just come out of a relationship and wasn’t really interested in starting a new one. But “he made me laugh,” she said. “I liked his personality.”
The two dated for 5 years. During that time Cameron attended Pratt Community College and Kiante would travel to visit him whenever she could. Cameron left school when Kiante became pregnant and was unable to finish. Jayden was born in 2009.
The two went back to school together and Cameron earned his degree in personal training while working a number of odd jobs. Kiante studied to become a medical assistant. “We kind of pushed each other,” she said.
The new family moved from what Cameron described as an atrocious apartment complex, into the well-kept, three-bedroom apartment they currently reside in now to raise their children.
Kiante and Cameron got married a week after Alayla was born. They accepted Jesus Christ into their hearts in October of 2012 at Praise chapel in Kansas city, KS after a play. Around that time, they joined Graceway church and were baptized together the following year.
They have help with Alayla; a nurse cares for her at home during the day when the two are at work. But there have been many tough times when they thought they might lose her.
She has epileptic seizures and apnea. One morning she stopped breathing. Kiante screamed for Cameron. Alayla’s lips had turned blue. He picked up his baby girl and laid her on the couch, he then moved her on a flat surface so she could receive better care. He’d learned basic CPR in college but wasn’t sure he remembered what to do. “In that moment all I could do was call on God. I was like, God please bless me to do this,” Cameron recalled. Alayla started to cough and then to cry.
Another hospital stay. Another Seven months. Alayla came home after having a tracheostomy and was placed on a ventilator. For two years, Cameron was out of work, because he lost his job due to taking Alayla to appointments. Stressed, and heartbroken that his daughter was ill, and that Kiante had to support the family, and that it was never enough, Cameron became depressed. He had to dig deep within himself, he said, to stay strong. “It was like humility, patience, perseverance were all being pulled out of me. Like I was being rebuilt.”
In the meantime, Cameron started a job as a janitor. That’s when he heard it. “God told me to go and apply for this coaching job.” He’d heard from a friend that Grandview High School was looking for a basketball coach. Cameron ignored the voice the first time. “But it was like something kept punching me, telling me to go apply.” When he did, he learned he needed a substitute teaching certificate. So he got one and went back for the job. “I just waited on God. I was stepping out on faith. I wasn’t sure I would get it.”
A month later, as the bills had begun to pile up, Cameron got the job coaching and teaching at a Grandview alternative school. Cameron also can recall a time a few years ago when God blessed them, a $1,500 check he and Kiante had been waiting a long time for came in the mail at a time when they needed it the most. “I was like, God this is just crazy.”
Life isn’t easy. Caring for Alayla, the listening, no matter where you are in the house, for the beep and click of the machines that help her breath – it’s constant. They are making it work.
Cameron loves working with the young men at school. “I get to mentor them.” Giving them, he said, what the men in his life modeled for him. “God was preparing me for this,” Cameron said. He prepared Kiante too. “We didn’t know we would have a child with special needs when I decided to go to college to be a medical assistant. But it helps me now with Alayla,” she said.
“We look back on all of this now,” Cameron said. “And I look at my wife and I tell her, baby I wouldn’t want to go through this journey with anyone else but you.”