The long scar running up Carly Strange’s stomach is a daily reminder that an abdominal birth defect nearly took her life.
Strange, a 27-year-old mother of three, was born with gastroschisis. Her intestines formed outside her body.
In May, she created a Facebook page called “The Many Faces of a Survivor.” She said she wanted families facing medical difficulties to have an outlet, so they don’t feel so alone.
Strange takes portraits for free of people dealing with disabilities, disorders, diseases or other struggles and shares their story on the page.
Her goal is to make everyone feel beautiful despite the scaring and wounds from medical treatments. She said she never wants anyone to feel self-conscious like she did growing up.
“Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about,” she said.
One of the first portraits Strange took was of 11-month-old Primrose Galloway. Primrose was diagnosed with pulmonary atresia, a form of congenital heart disease. The right side of her heart muscle did not form correctly and is unable to pump blood to her lungs.
She had open-heart surgery when she was two weeks old, and she will likely need two more heart surgeries before she’s 16, said her mother, Kayla Galloway.
“When I was pregnant with Primrose I didn’t have anyone,” she said. “When you’re all alone you fall in this deep depression.”
Galloway said she found comfort in Strange’s social media page. Primrose’s story received positive reactions from posters.
“Its really important to know that there are people out there like you that go through the same struggles,” she said.
Fighting to Survive
Strange’s most recent portrait is Shane Owens, 30, who suffers from lymphedema, a life-threatening disorder brought on by a blockage in the lymphatic system that causes swelling in his legs.
Owens finds some relief by wrapping both legs with bandages. But he said that is only a temporary solution.
“It’s not easy being like this,” he said.
Owens has less than five years to live if he is not treated. His insurance won’t cover the leg treatment kits that could save his life.
The leg kits cost about $2,300. He has enough money for one leg kit, but doctors must treat both legs at the same time. The other leg kit costs $1,200. He’s raised $125 so far.
Strange is helping Owens share his story on Facebook and set up a GoFundMe page to raise the funds for his medical treatment.
Owens said he enjoyed having his picture taken and tries to stay positive. He’s said he’s taking it day-by-day.
“Just keep your head up,” he said. “Tell yourself it’s going to be okay.”
The Journey Continues
Strange said she will continue to spread awareness of survivors and give families an outlet through her photography company, FamilyTrees.
“Everyone is so different and has something to share,” she said.
Her only regret: Wishing she started sooner.