Star Wars fans are rallying around a tiny baby fangirl who is batting the forces of illness.
Leah Esquenazi, now dubbed the Princess Leah, as a nod to Princess Leia from Star Wars, has spent weeks in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit with an as-yet-undiagnosed movement disorder that looks like seizures, but they are not.
Little Leah, who was named after her dad's sister (not actually after Leia), was born a healthy baby, but she developed abnormal eye and body movements following a fever. Since that time, the baby has had five spinal taps, numerous biopsies, cataract surgery, tracheostomy and many medical complications.
What she does not have is a diagnosis. The baby's parents, Zev and Francesca Esquenazi, began a blog called The Princess Leah Diaries about their daughter's tragic circumstances.
As medical bills have mounted, the couple is under significant financial stress in addition to the immeasurable stress of having a desperately ill infant.
Zev and Francesca are big Star Wars fans, and as our family has learned, the Star Wars community takes care of its youngest fans. Star Wars fans have rallied around the family, sending in donations and spreading the word about the infant princess Leah.
Peter Mayhew, the actor who played Chewbacca, has taken up the cause, as have other Star Wars actors and actresses.
Leah's mom, known as Frani, is staying strong through it all. She wrote on her blog:
"Thanks once again to everyone for supporting us, sending us messages, donations and prayers. We really appreciate it.
It's become much easier to deal with, now that we know we are not alone in this. I've become much more hopeful than I was even 3 weeks ago. Zev and I are exhausted all the time, and we get asked by so many people "how do you do it?".
The truth is, there is NO other option for us, we have no other choice but to be here for our daughter and by her side. All we can do right now is give her all the love, kisses, hugs, squeezes that we can and make her feel less afraid and so loved.
She is our whole world and she is all that matters to us right now. We NEED to stay strong for her. But it helps when you have so many people who can hold you up when you feel like you have no strength left, so thank you to all our families, friends and people who are following Leah around the world.
You are now part of what helps us stay strong for her and we're going to keep fighting until she gets better and can live a full happy, healthy life."
There is a Facebook Page called May The Force Be With The Princess LEAH, where supporters can keep up with the family.
This morning, I told Katie about Leah. "There is another little girl out there who the Star Wars people are helping. Her name is Leah, and there is a movement called May the Force Be With Leah. She is a baby who is sick, and we want her to get better."
Katie thought about that while she ate breakfast. On the way to camp, she told me she wants to draw a picture for the baby, and I plan to mail it in with a donation.
Also, items are being collected for an auction to benefit Leah and help with her health care costs. Katie and I are going to pick out some of the unopened Star Wars toys that she received and donate them to the auction.
To make a donation, go here.
To Zev and Frani,
Your little Leah is such a strong, resilient and beautiful baby. We are thinking of you in all you have had to endure and all that lies ahead. You are doing a great job taking care of your daughter, and you have the support of parents around the world.
May the Force Be with the Princess Leah, with you, and with us all.
Carrie Goldman and the readers of Portrait of an Adoption