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Kari and Ben get by with a little help from their friends

Kari and Ben Hickey have been married 10 years and are faced with two unique challenges this year — a pregnancy with quadruplets, and a diagnosis of Hodgkins Lymphoma — that they have been able to handle thanks to a positive attitude and lots of community support. (Photo by Melissa Grima) (click for larger version)
August 19, 2009
NORTHUMBERLAND — The pitter-patter of little feet won't be a new sound when Kari Hickey delivers her babies. The soon-to-be mother of quadruplets has been running a daycare from her home for 11-years and continues running her labor of love despite being close to going into labor herself.

"It's important things just went business as usual," Kari said of keeping her daycare open throughout her pregnancy and beyond, but, business as usual is anything but what the past few months have been for Kari and her husband Ben. After many years of trying to conceive, this couple who will be married 10 years in December, found out they were expecting quads in mid-March. "We just never expected them all to come like this," Kari said. Two months later Ben was diagnosed with cancer — Hodgkins Lymphoma. Since then, their lives have been a series of doctor visits with oncologists and obstetricians in between taking care of the children in their charge.

While Kari speaks openly about staying strong throughout the medical trials — "you have to," she explains — she instantly tears up when asked about the community support for her and her husband. "I'd just like to thank everybody. We definitely would not be able to get through this without everyone that helped," she said as she wiped the tears from her eyes and Ben, a man of few words who lets his wife talk for both of them, gets up to grab some more tissues. "We're very grateful."

Kari explained that things are looking up for Ben, who is tolerating his twice-monthly chemotherapy reasonably well. Ben said he's "feeling good." Hodgkins Lymphoma has a 60 percent cure rate, she said, and Ben's prognosis is positive. He'll continue treatment through December, but Kari said that recent tests came back with very good results. "They're fairly certain that he will be 100 percent," she said.

As for Kari and the quads — three boys and a girl — they're 27 weeks along and not expected to last to the 40-week mark. Kari said she's hoping to deliver in September and explained that while the average gestation for quadruplets is 28 weeks, 32 weeks would be ideal. She and Ben have been in contact with New Hampshire's only other family with quadruplets — they're three-and-a-half — to get pointers on logistics and expects that they'll be in contact with that family plenty more once the babies come.

To help Kari and Ben get through everything they've been faced with this year, and the challenges yet to come, the community around them has rallied to raise more than $18,000 to help the couple. "They've definitely done far more than we could ever hope for," Kari said tearfully. "It amazes me with people out of work, and the economy."

But friends of Kari and Ben say that it's just about giving back to people who give a lot of themselves. "They would always do stuff for other people," said Samantha Canton, Kari's longtime friend and the person who led the fundraising efforts. Despite having no kids of their own, the couple would chaperone field trips, attend school awards and never forgot a birthday or special occasion for the kids in their daycare. Kari said she is proud of the achievements "her kids" make at school and gets really connected to the families she works with. She explained that she or one of her staff attends the school things to support the kids.

Samantha explained that recently Kari spearheaded fundraising efforts to help a local child who was in need of a liver transplant. "They're two of the nicest people you would ever meet," she said, so when they needed help it seemed only natural that they get it. Plenty of fundraisers were held, including a raffle, a dance and perhaps the most popular, flamingo flocking — night-time installations of plastic pink flamingos on local lawns. Even Ben had fun with the flamingos, taking morning rides around the area just to see who had been hit with the pink lawn ornaments during the night.

Despite their own community involvement, Kari said she and Ben never expected the outpouring of support they've gotten. Because of the amount of money raised, Kari said she'll be able to keep the daycare open while she's in the hospital. The "support is allowing me not to worry about rushing home to work," she said.

In addition to the money raised, the couple also received two cribs from Garnet Hill in Franconia and the employees there held a "giving tree" for the family. Family and friends put the nursery together and all is ready for the newborns. Kari expects to deliver her babies — Aubrey, Cameron, Brady and Matthew — at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston in the near future and with Ben on the mend is looking forward to the future. "We have a lot to look forward to," she said.

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