Because there is a chance Ellis Rose may only live a few months from now, her parents are making the most of it
A couple from Cincinnati, Ohio, teamed up with a photographer over the summer to put on a magical photo shoot for their 14-month-old baby girl, who was born with a series of disabilities that threaten her longterm survival.
When Connor and Gabi Wilkinson were told by Special Angels Adoption Agency last year that a premature girl with severe special needs was in need of a loving home, they quickly jumped at the chance to be her parents.
“We knew that she was premature and had a pretty traumatic birth, but we weren’t sure of the extent of her injuries, her brain injuries or any other diagnoses,” Connor, 25, tells PEOPLE of his daughter Ellis Rose Wilkinson.
“Within the next three, six months after we adopted her, she got diagnosed with severe damage to her midbrain. She is blind and has cortical visual impairment and a very rare seizure disorder. She’s got a laundry list of things that she deals with on a daily basis.”
While they are hoping Ellis will beat the odds, Connor and Gabi are aware that this collection of disabilities — especially the frequent seizures — means there is a chance their daughter may only live a few more months.
If the seizures lessen in their frequency and strength, and Ellis remains free of any infections (due to her weakened immune system), her odds of surviving increase. That’s why Gabi left her job to care for Ellis full time, and the family — who also have two other children, 3-year-old Audrey and 2-year-old Abram — have limited her exposure to other people in the hopes it will reduce her chances of catching a virus.
“We’re wanting to find a balance, to give her life experiences but also keep her healthy,” Connor explains. “But what is important for us, we want people to know about Ellis isn’t a baby that we deal with. She is beautiful.”
One of these life experiences was treating Ellis to a memorable photo shoot, one that showed off everything that she represented to her family. For that, Gabi and Connor turned to Angela Forker of Precious Baby Photography, and worked with her to incorporate things that represent Ellis into the pictures, such as rose petals (for her middle name), and lots of red, since it’s one of the only colors she responds to.
For the shoot, Ellis dressed up as a “forget-me-not fairy,” so that the family, and others, will remember her no matter what the future may hold.
“With her limited life expectancy, that’s where ‘forget me not’ came from,” Gabi, 27, explains. “I want her to be remembered how she’s depicted in the photo, just as a kid who is full of love and has a lot to offer. She’s a little light in my world.”
Seeing the pictures, which captured the beauty in Ellis they have always seen, was an emotional experience for the parents.
“It was beautiful,” Gabi continued. “To have that memory of her and that experience, it is just awesome to see something so special for a kid who I know is special, and I think the photos are a good way to show everybody else how special she is.”