Lufkin family starting non profit after daughter has jaw surgery

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - In less than six months, a one-year-old East Texas child has had several surgeries to reconstruct her jaw. Before surgery, doctors said Amaria Barnett would stop breathing every hour. Amaria's Journey in a non profit her parents are starting to help families in need.

When Amaria Barnett was just two weeks old her parents noticed she was having trouble breathing.

"We first saw an ENT doctor and he told us she had a condition called laryngomalacia and it's basically where the tissue in the throat collapses downward and it closes off the airway," said  Shakeyeria Barnett, Amaria's mother. "Her chin was recessed which was pushing the tongue backward."

The plastic surgeon had a sleep study conducted.

"During the study the doctor said she would stop breathing every hour two or three times," Barnett said.

Weeks would go by and the newborn was not gaining weight. Doctors decided jaw reconstruction would be the best option.

"They break the bones of the jaw and they put metal plates and rods in the jaw," Barnett said. "Three times a day you have to turn those screws. As you turn the screws, the jaw would move forward."

Four different surgeries later the one-year-old is thriving.

"I tell people all the time the fact that she's growing every day, she's breathing, and she's not sounding like she used to sound or having the difficulty breathing; that all in itself is a blessing," Barnett said.

The Barnett's ran into financial problems during their extended stays at a Houston hospital.

"I know how difficult it can be and how it's a financial burden when you have to worry about not only your bills but how you're going to pay for this surgery," Barnett said. "I want to be able to help families get the assistance that they need financially while they're in the hospital and even help relieve some of that stress at home."

Amaria's Journey is a nonprofit and in 2014 it will provide families with assistance.

"There's no greater joy than to give back to people that have gone through the same situation that you've gone through," Barnett said. "It's a fulfilling feeling. I feel like there's purpose that's finally being served."

Copyright 2013 KTRE. All rights reserved.