DENVER, CO--(Marketwired - Nov 2, 2016) - Parker resident Emily Stark is a former Miss Colorado (1995) and was Mrs. Colorado America 2002, but the title she treasures most is Mom.
In 2000, when she was four months into her pregnancy, Stark and her husband, James, learned that their twin daughters were conjoined. A conjoined fetus occurs when a developing embryo starts to split into identical twins, but stops before the process is complete.
Even before their girls were delivered by Caesarian section, the Starks decided the twins would be separated after birth. Their decision followed an in utero MRI of the babies that showed they were connected at the base of their spines.
"The doctors had faith," their mother reported, adding that the worst-case scenario was that the separated twins would experience some paralysis.
The first of four surgeries for little Lexi and Sydney, who were unable to lie flat, occurred within 24 hours of their birth. However, it was not until October 9, 2001, the day they turned seven months old, that the girls underwent separation surgery. Seventeen days later, they went home to continue their recovery.
Now 15, Lexi and Sydney are happy and healthy high school students. In addition to celebrating the girls' birthday, the Starks also observe the anniversary of their successful separation. They realize that their family is luckier than most. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, the overall survival rate of conjoined twins is 5 to 25 percent.
When her daughters were little more than a year old, Stark's journey to becoming Mrs. Colorado America 2002 began. Happy as a wife and mother, she admits, "I thought I was losing me. The Mrs. Colorado America Pageant was a way of getting out in the community to thank all the people who added us to their prayers."
Although Stark no longer competes, she remains connected to Mrs. Colorado America by serving as the pageant's director, and holds the same position with Mrs. Ohio America.
It was Mrs. Colorado America 2016, Erica Shields, who introduced Stark to the work of the Fetal Health Foundation (FHF), a cause Shields is championing during her reign. Based in Littleton, the Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that serves as a liaison between families affected by various fetal syndromes and the medical teams available to provide care, funds life-saving research, shares leading medical information and increases fetal syndrome awareness.
Recalling the day she and her husband learned their twins were conjoined, Stark said, "The only thing we received was a paragraph out of a medical journal and the name of a family in Arizona we could write to. James and I felt like a solo ship. It would have been nice to have the connections and resources FHF is able to provide and talk to someone who had been in our position."
Mrs. Colorado America 2016 and several other local title holders will be in Denver's Washington Park Sunday, November 6, for the 13th Annual Great Candy Run benefitting FHF. Presented by the Colorado Institute for Maternal and Fetal Health, the family event includes a 5K Run/Walk with competitive Stroller Division, free Coda Coffee Gumdrop Kids Fun Run, costume contests for all ages, a variety of on-course entertainment, medals for every finisher, prize money for the fastest participants, appearances by local mascots and celebrities, one of the area's largest post-race expos, and sweet treats for all ages. Schedule details and online registration are available at http://www.thegreatcandyrun.com/denver-2016/.
To learn more about the Fetal Health Foundation, visit www.fetalhealthfoundation.org.