Carrie "My Little Overcomer"

Told by Carrie's father, Frank

Photography by      Randy Bacon

Photography by Randy Bacon

Carrie's story was brought to you in partnership with Abilities First:


Carrie is my daughter, and my hero. She was born a little over forty years ago in Springfield, Missouri. My wife, Nancy, had an uncomplicated pregnancy and we expected nothing less than a perfect little baby when she was born. On the morning after Carrie’s birth - our world changed. I came to visit Nancy and baby Carrie in the hospital only to find my wife crying. She said, “Something is wrong with Carrie. Her head is too small and she does not have a soft spot.” I was stunned as I did not have an idea as to what this meant at all. Nancy said, through tears, that the doctor felt that Carrie’s brain was too small and that there was probably brain damage. The doctor had come to a quick conclusion that Carrie may never develop intellectually at all. The doctor envisioned, because her head was so small, that Carrie’s brain was severely damaged. Despite our strong faith in God, we were crushed.

The doctor wanted to have a CAT scan done immediately in order to see the scope of the damage. Now this was in 1976 and in Springfield there were not MRI or CAT scan machines on every corner as there are today. Carrie went in to the CAT scan machine and somehow moved her head during the process and the test was no good. The machine then broke down a little later and we had to take Carrie home from the hospital not knowing the extent of her condition. Before the next CAT scan took place, the pediatrician wanted to see Nancy and me to discuss his prognosis and some ideas of what he thought we should do with Carrie. As we sat down with the doctor he pulled out literature to show us what a child with microcephaly looked like and he explained the prognosis for such a child. He recommended we look into institutions for Carrie as he imagined she would need continual care since she would never be able to do anything for herself. Nancy had nothing to do with any of that and she looked at the doctor defiantly and said, “God has given Carrie to us and He will take care of her.” The doctor sheepishly said that he hoped so.

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Carrie began to develop, slower than normal, but she began crawling, laughing, and doing things other babies did. Walking took a little longer, but by age one Carrie was walking like any other baby. Talking was slower but by one-and-a-half she could mimic words and even identify items in her books. Carrie was proving the doctor wrong, she was overcoming.

Flash forward to 1978. Carrie was age three and we were living in Grand Forks, North Dakota. I had enlisted into the Air Force to make sure Carrie had good medical care if needed. Carrie never did need that special care; she always was and is extremely healthy. Doctors had thought she may need a surgery on her head to open up the soft spot and allow room for the brain to grow but that never developed. The Air Force base we lived on had a special educational program for children with developmental disabilities. Children were eligible for this program at age three. Nancy and I thought this was a great idea for Carrie so we enrolled her into the program. The school provided transportation and an Air Force driver would pick the children up each morning and then bring them home in the afternoon. Carrie’s driver would come to the door each morning and carry Carrie to the bus. Although she was fully capable of walking he liked to carry her. Carrie took right away to going to school but after a couple of months her behavior began to change. She was not as receptive to the driver, almost shirking from him when he came to carry her to the bus. Then the severe sleep problems developed and they were horrible. Carrie would wake up four to five times every night talking oddly, slamming doors, and yelling and this was consistent. This was not normal for a little girl who had always slept well. The Air Force pediatrician thought initially Carrie had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and tried her on Ritalin only to cause her to bite herself multiple times and scream and cry all the first day on the medication. Needless to say that was the only day Carrie was on the medication. We dreaded nighttime knowing the sleep disorder would disrupt us once again and this was every night. Carrie just kept going to school.

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Summer break came and the Pike family was off to Missouri and Indiana for a month leave. It only took Carrie a couple of nights to begin sleeping normally. She would go to bed and sleep all night. She was happier during the day and the leave went well. Leave ended and we headed back to North Dakota. The Air Force was extremely gracious and had allowed me to cross-train into a regular day job where I would be home every night so Carrie’s life would be consistent. As I returned to work and was sitting at my desk the first day back I received a call from Nancy informing me that the Office of Special Investigations (OSI) was at our home. They reported Carrie and three of the other little girls on her bus were being molested by the bus driver on a daily basis during that last semester of school. The OSI agent told Nancy that the bus driver would drive them off base and would molest them. He reported he had threatened to kill the mothers of the two oldest girls if they ever said anything to their parents. Initially I doubted this story, but upon asking Carrie several questions, her responses left no doubt in my mind that she was molested and this was the root cause for the sleep disorder. Our sweet little girl had been the victim of a horrendous crime. Despite almost two years of pre-trial preparation and a court martial, Carrie returned to her normal little self and continued growing and developing. It was discovered through research by the lawyers that Carrie was the youngest child in American history to have to appear and testify in a military court martial. It is something we wish we had not had to go through!

Flash forward now to 1989, back in Springfield, Missouri. I separated from the Air Force in order to stay with the family. Another reenlistment would have meant I would have to leave the family for over a year to work on a base where families could not come. I could not do that to Carrie. She needed all of her family and I was going to be there for her. The little girl whose doctor wanted her to be institutionalized became an athlete. Carrie started participating in Special Olympics and shined in track and field and basketball. In one regional track and field competition, Carrie competed in the 100 yard dash, 200 yard dash, 400 yard run, 800 yard run, the one mile run and two relay races all before noon. She won every event she competed in! Carrie became a goal setter and an overcomer. Socially she thrived, developing lifelong friends and becoming an ambassador for Special Olympics. Carrie competed in the Special Olympic World Summer games and was chosen as one of ten athletes from around the world to be an ambassador to the Special Olympics World Winter games. The tragic events which took place when she was three are a hidden memory in what I call her “sugar head.”

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Flash forward to 2007 and Carrie has been an employee of Kohl’s department store for ten years as a cleaner. She has overcome a shattered knee which the doctor believed would end Carrie’s running days. It definitely did not and Carrie rehabilitated her knee and started running again. During the summer of 2007 Carrie took to sitting out in her front lawn with her dog Lily. Every day they would go out and either sit in the shade of “her” tree or soak up some sun.  We had no idea evil was lurking in our neighborhood and that a man living down our street had begun to stalk Carrie. He had been driving up and down our street and had begun to notice Carrie’s trend of sitting in our front yard on a daily basis. Then one day he made his move and drove onto our driveway and approached Carrie. What occurred that day is totally uncertain. We were never able to get a full story out of Carrie. We do know the following morning after Carrie’s mother and I had gone to work he called our house (thank God for caller ID) and threatened to come to our house to rape Carrie since her parents were gone. He had obviously watched our house to see that our cars were gone. Carrie became hysterical and ran across the street to a neighbor who then called me at work. Carrie had now been traumatized by two evil men during her short life. We were able to find the man and report it to the police. The police detective feared going to court may cause more damage to Carrie and we ended getting an ex parte order on the man. His life, from what we know, fell apart. He lost his family and moved from the area. Carrie developed post-traumatic stress disorder and fought through that for over two years. She developed an extraordinary support system and now, except for periodic bouts of depression is doing well.

Carrie is my overcomer. She has overcome two major knee injuries only to now compete regularly in long races. She has overcome personal assaults only to be active in the Art Inspired Academy theater groups where she is known as a strong encourager to others with developmental disabilities. For a girl who was given a prognosis of never developing intellectually she worked eighteen years at Kohl’s Department Store and she can tell you everything you would ever want to know about the Titanic. She is my little hero!!

November 2017

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Carrie's story was brought to you in partnership with Abilities First:

Abilities First believes that by ensuring that people have opportunities to use their abilities, we can make our community better for everyone. Abilities First uses public and private funds to support the choices of individuals with developmental disabilities in Greene County to live, work, play, be active, and productive in meaningful ways for our community. For more information about Abilities First and its programs, go to www.abilitiesfirst.net or call 417-886-0404.

Abilities First operates programs which support and create community opportunities including support coordination for people with developmental disabilities of all ages through First Steps (birth – 3 years) and The Next Step (3 years – over). Art Inspired Academy provides an inclusive experience for people with and without disabilities to participate in creative arts like theater, music, dance, and art.

Abilities First has two retail businesses: Inspired Boutique is an upscale resale shop featuring women’s clothing, accessories, furniture, and antiques, and Art Inspired, a retail store and gallery highlighting furniture and home décor items created from recycled paper and artwork from visiting artists and Academy students. Both stores offer competitive job opportunities in inclusive work environment.