11 Days of Fear | A Personal Blog Post from Alyssa | Lehigh Valley Wedding & Portrait Photographer

Hey there,

Some of you who are personal friends of mine on social media may have read that our daughter, Cora, has been seriously ill. This blog post isn’t going to be full of pretty photos. I’ve been too overwhelmed and scared to even pick up my camera during this ordeal, but I believe it’s important to share—the good, the bad and the ugly.

It’s important that you all know that Hope & Stay isn’t just a business. There’s a person behind it—and a family. And this person has human moments and problems and life happens to us, too.

The content below began as a lengthy Facebook post updating our friends and close family as to what was going on, but I figured, hey, most of my clients/readers care about our family, too, so I decided to include my you all as well.

“Hey, all! We are reading all of your notes and we appreciate every one of you who have taken the time to pray and reach out to see how Cora is. And a HUGE thank you to our friends and family who have stepped up to help us--you know who you are.

I know some of you may be curious about what is going on, so here's the lengthy story...

On Monday (12/10), Cora began the day normally. She was happy, bubbly, totally normal. By that evening, I could tell she was coming down with something. Her mood changed, she picked through dinner, and had a fever. I can't really remember what the temperature was, but I wasn't overly concerned. 

By Tuesday afternoon, she had 103.1 temperature. It came on very quickly with no real other symptoms. She had a dry, mild cough, but nothing more and definitely not anything that sounded worrisome. Through alternating Tylenol and Motrin, we were able to get the fever down. Again, I was concerned, but not totally flipped out.

On Thursday, she still had a super high fever. I took her to our local Urgent Care center where she was examined. They checked her ears, throat, and lungs--everything looked great. During that exam, she was tested for flu, which was negative. I was told it was viral and that I should continue care at home by ensuring she rests and gets plenty of fluids. They told me if she wasn't better within 3-5 days to follow up with her pediatrician.

Well, 3-5 days puts us at the weekend and her pediatrician did not have weekend appointments. So, on Saturday afternoon, I took her back to Urgent Care. Again, she was examined. Her ears were clear, her throat looked good, her lungs sounded clear. This time she was swabbed for strep, which was negative. I was frustrated and asked for an antibiotic. I knew something was wrong and with a fever that high for so long that it was likely bacterial. We were on Day 5 of 103 fever with no explanation as to what was going on. We were told that it could, perhaps, be a UTI, which isn't uncommon for little girls her age, but without the presence of urinary symptoms, it was unlikely. Again, I was sent home without a prescription.

On Sunday evening, I texted her pediatrician who agreed she needed to be seen first thing on Monday morning. 

Monday (12/17)--We took her into her pediatrician who warned us that 7 days at 103 was getting to the point of being dangerous. She was examined, and again, nothing notable was found. Her throat looked good, in-office urine screen was clear, ears were healthy, lungs sounded clear. Her doctor was concerned and sent us straight to the hospital for stat x-rays, blood tests, and full urinalysis. Thank God she did. 

By this point, she was pretty dehydrated despite our best efforts to ensure she was drinking. She was refusing any food or drink and with the fever being so high for so long, her body was just burning through anything we could get in her.

At the hospital, it took 4 sticks, 2 phlebotomists, and 20 minutes with warmers on her arms to get blood because she was so dehydrated. 

Our doctor called us within the hour to tell us that she had pneumonia in her right lung. We were all shocked! By this point, three people had examined her and no one could hear pneumonia in her lungs, but the x-ray was clear that her right lung was affected.

She prescribed a very heavy hitting antibiotic and we were that if her fever didn't break within 48 hours that we needed to call the pediatrican. 

(Side note: Because she is susceptible to other infection, like flu, it was best for her to be cared for at home and not at the hospital. Her oxygen level was OK and as long as we kept pushing fluids, she could be home with us.)

Well, 48 hours came and went. During this time, the "pneumonia" coughing began and the fever continued. She was coughing to the point of vomiting, unable to rest, burning with fever. I was scared. 

I know that pneumonia is the leading cause of death of children under age 5 and I was beginning to become concerned that we had the correct diagnosis too late.

I texted her pediatrician at 7:00 am on Wednesday morning (Day 10) and let her know the fever hadn't broken. She saw us right away and finally could hear the pneumonia in her lungs. She was concerned that she sounded worse than she had two days prior. We were sent back to the hospital for a follow-up x-ray which confirmed that despite 48 hours on very strong antibiotics, the pneumonia had spread and was now throughout the right lung.

Because our pediatrician doesn't admit patients to the hospital, she sent us to emergency, at which point the attending physician in the ER would make the decision on whether or not we would stay.

We waited for over three hours in the waiting room of the ER, which is the point where most of you entered the story with my plea for prayers.

The ER physician told us Cora had a very rare case of pneumonia that simply couldn't be heard on physical exam—Five doctors and no one could hear the pneumonia! This is not typical.

On day 11, her fever finally broke. Praise Jesus. By this time, the pneumonia had time to really take hold in her lungs and we have been told that it is going to take a while for her to fully recover. She's tired, coughing a TON, and struggling to sleep because of the incessant coughing, but, I am happy to report that she is on the mend.

I learned some very valuable lessons throughout this:

  •   We have a bigger support system than I even knew we had.  We had people dropping off Gatorade, toilet paper, cards, dinners, stuffed animals, coloring books—you name it. Sometimes I can feel a little alone out here.  I am 2 hours away from my blood relatives, but I have an amazing network between my amazing in-laws, friends, and church family. I am THANKFUL for each one of you.

  •   Prayer has power.  This is something we already knew, but what a comfort it has been to know that there are people out there praying. And not just saying they’ll pray for us, but actually praying! We are strong in our faith and know that no matter what, that God’s plan is perfect.  We have been leaning into Him and know that His word is true and that He is sovereign. I have prayed over our little girls every day since they were born and will continue to do so as long as I am living.

    “Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well.” -James 5:15

  • A mother’s intuition shouldn’t be ignored and it’s OK to be persistent.  I knew something was wrong.  I pushed, I pressed, I even fought with Ben about it—I knew she was in trouble.  Yes, I wish I had done a few things differently and hindsight is 20/20, but mamas, trust your gut! 

  • “Children aren’t little adults.”  My stepdad spoke these words to me this and it’s very so true. I never really thought about it, but what an accurate statement.   It was my mistake for taking her to Urgent Care instead of her pediatrician straightaway.  Pediatricians are specialized for a reason.  Children can present with different symptoms than adults and for sure, that second visit to Urgent Care should have resulted in further testing. This is a mistake I will NOT make again.

All in all, she is on the right path now.  We still aren’t out of the woods and have to be very vigilant during this time of healing to ensure she doesn’t have any setbacks.  It’s been a rollercoaster of emotions and her recovery is going to be slow but we are so grateful for all of your support, prayers, and thoughts.  Please keep praying.

Much love,


Our Family Vacation 2018 | Avalon, New Jersey

Those of you who follow me on Instagram may already know we just got home from an amazing week in Avalon, New Jersey.  As a Jersey Girl, the shore will always hold a special place in my heart. There's nothing quite like crabbing off the dock in the bay or hitting the Ocean City boardwalk for some pizza and fudge or just walking the shops on Dune in Avalon.  It's so nice to be able to take a "time out" from the grind to just relax and recharge, while at the same time, creating memories with our sweet girls.

Avalon, New Jersey is the place where I would take family vacations when I was young, so it was important to me that Ben and I continue this tradition with our girls.  Though my family doesn't look like it did so many years ago, God has blessed our own little family unit in so many ways.  One of those blessings is the success of this business that provides a way for us to take this time each year for just us.

I'll be the first to admit that I can be a bit of a workaholic.  This was the first year that we went down the shore and I actually left my computer at home.  It was so freeing and it felt so amazing to be present both physically and mentally.  In the midst of my busiest season, it's a gift to be able to take a week to unplug.

This year was the first year in a very long time that we vacationed without a baby in tow--no pack n' play, no high chair, no sippy cups.  It was a little bittersweet, but I've realized that our family is growing, changing, and transitioning to a new phase and I am so thankful to have these memories documented for us and for our girls.  

I wanted to share a few pictures of our little vacation for a couple of reasons.  First, because I am making it a goal to share more personal work.  I think it's important for you to get to know me not just from my client work, but from my personal work, too.  I am making an effort to be a little more transparent and share in that regard.  Also, because this is how I document my memories and hopefully yours, too.

Here are some of my favorite memories and moments from our trip to Avalon, New Jersey this year:

  • Little A finally getting the hang of boogie boarding on her own.

  • Ben's obsession with crabbing. This guy literally eats crabs for breakfast, lunch, and dinner when we are down the shore.

  • Our sunset cruise on the Miss Avalon. Unfortunately, we didn't see any dolphins, but little A got to skipper the ship for a few minutes in the open ocean. How cool is that!?

  • Rainbow sprinkles must be on EVERY ice cream.

  • Yes, it is possible to get seriously sunburned on a super overcast day--whoops!

  • Catching wild hermit crabs and minnows in the tide pools by the jetty.

  • A + C's first pet hermit crabs. May "Shelly" and "Coconut" live long happy lives in their hermit crab tiki hut.

  • Deciding that Duck Donuts will be a tradition for the last breakfast of our trip.

  • Our morning trips to the Avalon Public Library. The public library in Avalon is incredible and so family-friendly.

If you're planning an Avalon or Cape May wedding and are looking for an engagement or wedding photographer, let's chat!