April 24, 2001 11:00 pm
SCARED BUT EXCITED: Ron and Laura Califf are anxiously awaiting the birth of their son. (The Observer/PHIL BULLOCK).
SCARED BUT EXCITED: Ron and Laura Califf are anxiously awaiting the birth of their son. (The Observer/PHIL BULLOCK).

By The Observer

Even before hes born, Laura Califf knows her son faces hours of painful surgery to correct an unusual condition.

The unborn child, already named Connor William, suffers from omphalocele. His liver and part of his intestines have grown in a membrane on the outside of his body, because the skin around his abdomen did not completely close, said Ron Califf, Lauras husband.

The La Grande couple travel to Doernbecher Childrens Hospital in Portland once every two weeks, and Laura sees her La Grande doctor regularly, too.

We see lots of doctors, Laura said.

Connor William is Lauras first child and Rons third. Doctors have told the couple that the cause of the condition is unknown.

Laura, who works for the Grande Ronde Child Center, has health insurance, but she said she doesnt know if payments are capped.

The National Guard is coming to the rescue with a spaghetti feed from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Sunday at the armory on 12th Street. Tickets are $4 each or $15 for a family. Ron is a staff sergeant with the Guard.

The money raised will help cover the costs of Lauras transportation to and from Portland. It will also help pay ground and air ambulance costs.

Last Thursday, Lauras doctor discovered the babys heart was beating too fast, and Laura was flown to Doernbecher. She was given medicine to slow the childs heart and she returned to La Grande.

I feel fine, Laura said. This doesnt affect me at all. The only way we found it was through an ultrasound.

Although omphalocele is rare and the Califfs dont know anyone with the condition, they have found a support group on the Internet.

For the most part, the information were getting is positive, Laura said. Many children have had six or seven surgeries by the time theyre 2.

Connor William originally was scheduled to arrive June 20, but because of his health, doctors will perform a Caesarean section June 5 or 6. Immediately after he is born, Connor William will have surgery.

I think Im prepared, Laura said. Im optimistic, but I hope it wont take too long.

Laura said she is prepared for the baby to spend a couple of months in the hospital.

Laura, whose parents are Jeff Poppe and Peggy Edmonds, grew up in La Grande.