Photo Illustration by: Christian Mayberry, RockThePit Magazine

Savannah Lane is a young mother in Southern Illinois who goes about her day-to-day life just like each and every one of us, working and trying to find a little piece of happiness. If you met her, you'd never know what life has thrown at her. She is inspiring and her story is heartfelt. I for one could not imagine how it is possible to cope with such a tragedy.

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I am glad there are people like her in the world to tell these stories and help us go through our lives.

I got the amazing opportunity to hear this beautiful young mother’s story and see every detail of her tattoo. This story is told in her own words. I hope the one thing that comes from this story is that you take a moment of your time to realize how precious each life is, while it is here because in a split second it could be gone:

“My daughter, JoLeanna Louise aka “JoLee” better known as Bitty, was born 6 weeks early at only 2 lbs 6 oz and 14 1/2 inches long at Barnes Jewish Hospital in St. Louis

On top of being 6 weeks early, she was 4 weeks behind in size due to the blood flow not moving correctly in her umbilical cord… My body was trying to kill her off and in 34 weeks of carrying, her I never knew. 

After a helicopter ride, 3 days of labor,  begging to not be cut open, seeing her for first time as well as blacking out, she finally made her grand arrival in this crazy place we call a world on December 18, 2014.  I had to have an intervented T classical C-section, the hardest one to heal from. 

During the 53 day stay in Children's Nicu, not leaving her side, my daughter learned to breath, suck and swallow in order to eat, endured multiple mutiple tests, IVs, was on and off oxygen. I was breast feeding and pumping the whole time while healing from surgery and taking in every moment of seeing her become more of a daddy's little girl (she had her daddy's looks and my personality and attitude though, Haha)

We were going to have our hands full but with our amazing co-parenting, teamwork and feeling completely blessed everything seemed fine.

However, medical issues soon came up, and when it all linked together later on, it was determined JoLeanna had “Septo Optic dysplasia,” an extremely rare genetic disorder that affects only 0.01% of the population. The condition caused part of her brain to be missing, sugar issues (opposite of a diabetic), adrenal gland issues and damage to her optic nerve, along with other setbacks from being a Preemie. 

All in all, she was doing what a normal baby should do with assistance from different therapy and specialists. On Feb, 9th 2015 both extremely nervous and excited, I was able to take her home weighing 5lbs and 17 inch long now.  

All was fine until I realized she was more “fuzzy” than usual and her sugars were high.

I called a specialist on Feb, 14th, 2015 after some newborn pictures were done; she blew me off and said she might have a virus and that they would check back on Monday.

That night, as I changed her diaper, fed her and gave her her medicine, she laid on my chest and relaxed.

I went to lay her down, at that time she tried to cry… Nothing came out.”

Photo by: Christian Mayberry, RockThePit Magazine I ran upstairs with her to wake her grandparents and we decided to call 911. As soon as her grandma handed her back to me from holding her, she stopped breathing in my arms.

I started CPR right away until the EMT showed up to take over. 

And to this day over a year later I can still hear myself screaming:

 "Why aren't they here yet?!

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"Just breathe baby!"

I felt so helpless, I just wanted to save her. After being rushed to Alton memorial hospital and a phone call from her dad who was working out of state at the time, the Dr. came out and said they did all they could…

“I was officially living a nightmare…”

JoLeanna was pronounced dead at 1 a.m. on Feb. 15, 2015.

After family came and a long talk with professionals, I was able to hold my precious little miracle, but this time lifeless and wrapped in the same blanket wearing the same kind of hat that she wore the first time my lips were able to kiss her little head. 

It has been over a year now and it has been a struggle mentally and emotionally to grieve. To not let go or forget but keep moving forward...

I am 100% not ashamed to say I took the step to do what is right and still continue to do so to make sure I am able to balance the loss of the best gift God could give me and make sure my mental state is right. As well to not only move forward, but to stay strong to help others that have been in my shoes or close to it.

Every one deals with grief differently and all forms need to be respected.  

JoLeanna was named after my adopted mother, the only one that I see as my mom, my true hero Joanna Lee Lane. Because of her, I had a second chance at life that I'm forever grateful for.

I lost my mom May 26, 2010 due to multiple organ failure. I held her till she took her last breath. My daughter is buried above her and me, a 28-year-old has my grave spot paid for right next to them. Some think it is strange, but having to bury two very important people in my life that I wasn't prepared to do, I know there is nothing wrong with preparing.

The day I lost my mom driving to hospital there was a rainbow in the sky. It gave me a sense of calmness even though I knew I was letting her go that night and to this day, it's my reminder that I have not just one, but two angels over me which is the reason for the lyrics in my tattoo "make me into a rainbow will shine down on my mother."

Purple is preemie awareness and light blue and pink is infant loss awareness.

The rosary represents a custom made rosary that was blessed by a priest from our friends from the firehouse bar in Alton, Il and her dad’s religious side. The day of her funeral, her father who is Catholic, and I agreed we both wanted her baptized once he came home from work with her being home. Since it didn't work that way, we had her blessed with her dad holding her.

The light blue in the beads is her birthstone color, the smaller foot is one when she was born the larger one and hand prints is hers when she passed away.

I owe all the credit of my beautiful piece to Kati Dyer formally with American Classic Tattoo Emporium in Edwardsville, now with Grand Piasa Body Art in Alton. She has helped me in so many ways and reminds me that "It's not a bad life just a bad day," to never give up and to continue to hold the big heart I have to “stay strong.”

I’m forever grateful not just for our friendship, but her artwork that gives me strength.

SEE ALSO: "The short story of JoLeanna: 'Half of our heart lives in Heaven'

Photo by: Christian Mayberry, RockThePit Magazine


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