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Angie Wieck, Published April 14 2013

Fargo family with sick baby gets mortgage help

FARGO – When Kelly and Dave Hatlen’s son, Cash, turns 1 on May 5, he will have spent 11 months of his life in the hospital.

By all appearances, Cash was a healthy baby until he stopped breathing sometime the morning of June 10.

He was eventually diagnosed with a condition called laryngomalacia, which in simple terms means he had a floppy airway. While many babies grow out of it, Cash’s case was so severe it completely blocked his airway that morning.

He has been hospitalized ever since, first at Essentia Health in Fargo and eventually at the Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis.

This kind of emotional and financial toll is stressful for families like the Hatlens, but they recently received a bit of good news from the Spare Key organization.

The Fargo family is the first North Dakota recipient of home mortgage assistance from the nonprofit established in 1997 by Robb and Patsy Keech.

The Keeches’ son, Derian, was born with a genetic birth defect that required six major surgeries and five open-heart surgeries by the age of 2.

The couple’s friends and family raised money to cover their mortgage so Patsy could take unpaid leave from her teaching job to spend time at the hospital.

After meeting other struggling families at the hospital, the Keeches realized how fortunate they were for their support system, so when they lost Derian they were inspired to help other families in his memory.

Through a network of grants, donations, employee giving programs and fundraisers, the nonprofit can offer families up to $1,200 in mortgage assistance.

In order to qualify, applicants must have a dependent child 18 years of age or younger who has been hospitalized 14 or more days in the past 90 days, and be a homeowner current on mortgage payments.

Applicants also must have exhausted all paid leave, demonstrate a significant reduction of income as a result of a child’s hospitalization or prove that the child’s medical care has resulted in a significant increase in expenses.

Spare Key initially operated solely in Minnesota, but recently expanded to include families in North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin. Since 1997, it has made more than 1,700 mortgage payments.

Nikki Lignell, director of external program outreach, said it was natural for Spare Key to reach out to surrounding states.

“Minnesota has an excellent base of hospitals with pediatric care,” Lignell said. “So many families from South Dakota, North Dakota and Wisconsin are sent to our hospitals.”

Kelly Hatlen said many of the families she has met at the Children’s Hospital are from North Dakota. She is excited to get the word out so they can get the same help.

“When you go through something like this, I like to say, ‘When you’re at the bottom of the cross, when somebody lends a hand to help, it means a lot,’ ” she said.

Hatlen said Cash continues to show improvement. The family looks forward to the day they can bring him home and be reunited as a family again.

For more information about Spare Key, visit www.sparekey.org.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Angie Wieck at (701) 241-5501