The tiny hairs on her baby sister's head tickle her nose. Her parents laugh in her delight.
Kailey Vandrovec is extraordinary, a tiny miracle.
"Breley was Baby A, and we truly believe that she just bought extra time for Kailey to survive," said Kailey's mom, Jessica.
Born at just 24 weeks, Breley and Kailey were micro preemies. Their hands and feet the size of coins and their weight 1.6 pounds, not enough to fill out the littlest diaper. Undersized and under-developed, Breley died two days after birth.
"When you have a twin you can't just forget. Every birthday is we should have two. Every milestone is I wonder what Breley would be doing, so it's that constant reminder," said Jessica.
Kailey is another reminder of the fragility of life. Her eyes don't convey how much she's seen in her two-and-a-half years. She has bronchial pulmonary displasia and chronic lung disease.
This February, her will to live was tested yet again.
"She had Human Metapneumovirus which is a lot like RSV. In kids with BPD it attacks their lungs, and she just couldn't recover on her own," said Jessica. "She doesn't have a lot of reserve."
While received care at Sanford, the sweet, goofy little girl struggled to breathe. So, on a stormy February night Jessica and Terry Vandrovec made a major family decision. Children's Hospital in Minneapolis was the place where Kailey could receive the most specialized care.
"That night that we flew to the Cities you could just feel that we were being lifted up in prayer," said Jessica. "I don't know how else to describe how we got off the ground."
Kailey needed time to rest. A ventilator moved the air in and out of her little lungs.
"When that doctor sat down with me in the Cities and said she's on life support I was like oh yeah. My heart just sank. That is truly what she is. Without that vent she would not be alive. We could have lost her."
There's a saying - a parents should never have to bury their child. The Vandrovec's have buried a child. Breley's death tested their individual strength and their marriage.
"We had to get to the point where we could survive losing a child. Everything else since then has been, well, it can't be as bad as that," said Terry Vandrovec.
That's why Terry, Jessica, and their oldest daughter Mya needed to be in Minneapolis with Kailey, leaving their baby twins with friends and family to be cared for in Sioux Falls.
Often times, nine-year-old Mya was the most optimistic, gently willing her little sister on from Kailey's bedside.
"She said, I don't want her to die, she can't die, she's not going to die," said Jessica. "Mya was very positive when Terry and I were like we've got to prepare for the worst because this could happen."
"I've learned that things really bad can happen to Kailey. I didn't really think she was that sick when she was born, because I was six and I didn't understand anything. But, now that I've seen all of this I really do understand she could die because of this," said Mya.
Shortly after intubation Kailey perked up, her skin regaining it's pretty pink color. Rocking one night in a hospital chair, another tiny miracle.
"Mommy, Breley stayed with KaiKai," said Jessica. "That's what she called herself and I was like what? I had no idea where she was coming from. I said when you were sick and she said yes."
Home for more than a month, Kailey still needs twice a day vest treatments to loosen the mucus in her lungs. A machine in their home costs $16,000.
"Things add up super fast when you're dealing with a sick kid like Kailey," said Jessica.
Because of her history and low birth weight, Kailey qualifies for a lot of medical assistance.
"There are some things built into the system for people like us where we're not going to be ever at a point where we have to decide can we do that treatment, or can we afford to do that treatment?" said Terry. "There's just enough programs in place.
Eating is another hurdle the Vandrovec's cross numerous times a day.
"We're feeding her every three hours because she has to be fed, so she doesn't really know what it means to be hungry," explained Jessica.
Despite those daily nuances, Kailey looks and acts like a normal toddler. She's a tiny miracle, a constant reminder just how extraordinary life can be.
"When you're in a situation like we were the littlest things people would do or say just meant so much to you," said Jessica. "We need to always remember that."
Thursday, February 20 2014 7:42 PM EST2014-02-21 00:42:09 GMT
Behind the glory of football there are the scars and bruises. Some visible, some not. We still have much to learn about the health risk football puts on it's players, but some of the biggest strides inMore >>
Behind the glory of football there are the scars and bruises, some visible, some not. We still have much to learn about the health risk football puts on it's players, but some of the biggest strides in research are happening on South Dakota's fields.More >>
Friday, March 7 2014 9:19 PM EST2014-03-08 02:19:54 GMT
A Yankton man was found dead in a mobile home, Friday morning and Police are calling it a homicide. It happened on the 1100 block of E. 8th Street near Peninah Street. That's on the southeast part ofMore >>
Authorities say a Yankton man has been charged with second-degree homicide as murder in connection with his uncle's death.More >>
Friday, March 7 2014 9:04 PM EST2014-03-08 02:04:53 GMT
The Aberdeen Regional Airport is going to try and add a little excitement to its walls. The airport has hired Aberdeen artists Nick and Nicole Fischer to paint a mural to place on the wall in the airport'sMore >>
The Aberdeen Regional Airport is going to try and add a little excitement to its walls. The airport has hired Aberdeen artists Nick and Nicole Fischer to paint a mural to place on the wall in the airport's center waiting room. The mural will depict Aberdeen's history.More >>
Friday, March 7 2014 8:57 PM EST2014-03-08 01:57:38 GMT
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) - Malaysia Airlines says it has lost contact with a plane carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew on route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. The airline says that Flight MH370 hasMore >>
The airline says that Flight MH370 has lost contact with Subang air traffic control at 2:40 a.m. Saturday.More >>
Friday, March 7 2014 8:37 PM EST2014-03-08 01:37:00 GMT
Sporting their favorite jerseys, they huddle around former Viking Ben Leber just hoping he'll sign one of their items. But, Leber isn't in at Robert Bennis Elementary in Brandon to talk football.More >>
More than 60 percept of students don't eat breakfast daily, that's according to the American College of Sports Medicine. So, what's being done to change this statistic?More >>
Friday, March 7 2014 4:19 PM EST2014-03-07 21:19:12 GMT
Cattle ranchers and law enforcement in the American West are fighting a tough new battle to protect the herds -- keeping meth addicts from stealing their cows and selling them to finance their drug habit. CattleMore >>
Cattle ranchers and law enforcement in the American West are fighting a tough new battle to protect the herds -- keeping meth addicts from stealing their cows and selling them to finance their drug habit.More >>
Friday, March 7 2014 11:45 AM EST2014-03-07 16:45:28 GMT
A toddler has died as a result of a two-vehicle fatal crash on Feb. 24, the South Dakota Highway Patrol said today.A one and one-half year old child, Adryan Jones, died late Wednesday, in a Sioux FallsMore >>
A toddler has died as a result of a two-vehicle fatal crash on Feb. 24, the South Dakota Highway Patrol said today.More >>