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Stephen J. Lee, Forum Communications, Published November 08 2012

Grand Forks family faces double medical challenges

GRAND FORKS - Kelly and Chris Hutton have had plenty of eventfulness this year.

The couple, who both work for Grand Forks County, had their first baby on May 19 in a traumatic birth.

Mason Hutton didn’t have a heartbeat, wasn’t breathing and had his umbilical cord wrapped around his neck and body. In the eight minutes it took to revive him, Mason didn’t get needed oxygen.

Physicians later figured it was bleeding on his brain that did damage, which showed up in seizures for a time. He lost some hearing in one ear.

That would have been enough for Chris Hutton to handle as a first-time father.

At 37, he’s a corporal with the sheriff’s department and a just-retired sergeant in the North Dakota National Guard. He spent a full year in Iraq during the war there in 2004-2005. Five years ago he was hit while riding a motorcycle in Grand Forks and ended up losing his lower right leg.

That’s nothing, you can hear in his voice now. He’s back to 100 percent with a prosthetic. His squad SUV has one accommodation: the gas and brake pedal are swapped, so he can better use his left foot when driving.

It’s what the young family is facing recently that’s on his mind.

Driving back and forth to the hospital where Mason was being tended, Kelly noticed a lump on her rib that just didn’t go away. Only two weeks after Mason’s birth, she learned she had an aggressive cancer in her connective tissue.

Kelly had surgery at the University of Minnesota Medical Center in the Twin Cities.

It went well and she’s doing “pretty good,” she said this week. “We are still looking at some other treatment options with my oncologist here at the Cancer Center.”

It’s meant lots of hospital care for all three, especially the past six months, along with the bills that come with it all.

Kelly said with a rueful laugh: “We just kept thinking, ‘What’s next?’”

Well, one thing is the benefit friends and family members and colleagues have organized on Saturday at the Eagles Club in East Grand Forks.

It’s sponsored by the North Dakota Association for the Disabled, based in Grand Forks, which helps with fundraisers for families with serious health challenges.

In the Huttons’ case, they’ve got a couple.

They’ve got lots of support, too.

Chris’ parents, retired and working at Dollywood near Knoxville, Tenn., are coming for the benefit and wrangled — it wasn’t difficult — donations for the auction from Dolly Parton herself.

Actor Josh Duhamel, the home-state minded film star who grew up in Minot, donated items, too.

But the Huttons said more meaningful to them is that county clerks of court offices across North Dakota and law enforcement agencies around the region have donated to their need. And that their families and old friends are coming up for the weekend.

“We are pretty humbled by the support everyone has shown us,” Kelly said, cradling Mason as his eyes grew heavy after supper.

“That’s one of the things I love about this area is the way the community comes together,” Chris said.

Kelly has been back to work since Oct. 1 as deputy clerk of court and a supervisor in the civil court side for the county.

Chris works the night shift patrolling Grand Forks County in 10-hour shifts.

“So he has more days off,” Kelly said.

It means Mason has to be at his daycare downtown only about half the weekdays each month.

They live west of Grand Forks near trains and planes passing by.

But Mason seemed as unfazed as his parents. It’s hard to believe how much he’s gone through as he snuggles now with them, expertly holding a bottle to drain it and ready to bounce around.

“He never cries,” Kelly said.

Mason gets checked every week for his development, including house calls from a health professional.

He loves their two young Golden Retrievers and “goes to anybody” because of all the health care he got early on, Kelly said.

Mason sleeps a solid eight hours through every night. “Wakes up on the dot at 6:30 every morning,” Chris said.

Chris and Kelly met at work in the court house when she still worked on the criminal court side. Naming their baby, too, is sort of work-related, from a name Chris came across on a call.

“Mason means concrete, strong,” he said.

They discussed the name, along with others.

Then as Kelly came out of her medical fog after her dramatic C-section, her first words were, “I like Mason,” she said, smiling down at him.

Benefit for the Huttons

The Saturday benefit for Kelly, Chris and Mason Hutton is at the Eagles Club, 227 10th St. N.W., just off Gateway Drive in East Grand Forks.

A silent auction and bake sale starts at 3 p.m. A baked potato bar is open from 4 to 7 p.m. Everyone is welcome.