Sick baby dies during theme park visit

September 2, 2008 9:15:40 PM PDT
To get their minds off Hurricane Gustav pounding the Gulf Coast and possibly their New Orleans-area homes, some evacuees left their hotel rooms and went to Six Flags Over Texas. The adults and older children enjoyed rides and junk food all day. But one couple's 7-month-old daughter suddenly stopped breathing, which had never happened, although she had a genetic disorder. Kaitlynn Foret was rushed to a nearby hospital, where she died Monday.

"I'm torn apart," her mother Kerri Vidal said Tuesday. "It's just the worst feeling in the world knowing you're not going back with your little one."

The Tarrant County Medical Examiner's Office ruled her cause of death complications of Joubert syndrome with Dandy-Walker malformation.

Now the family of about a dozen people and four dogs remains in North Texas, waiting until the power is restored to Harvey, La., just outside New Orleans, before driving back home.

The relatives left last weekend, fearing they would be stranded in devastation the way many of them were after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. They spent the first night in Shreveport, La., before deciding to stay in Arlington.

Vidal said her daughter had been doing well recently, although she faced a host of problems since being in the neonatal intensive care unit the first three months of her life. Kaitlynn could not sit up, was on a feeding tube, had trouble gaining weight and sometimes breathed heavily, Vidal said.

But Vidal, who had learned CPR and took her baby to therapy at the hospital several days a week, said Kaitlynn kept exceeding doctors' expectations and was a joy to those around her.

"She had a little hair that was starting to come in, brown eyes and a cute nose, and we called her `gumdrops' because when she smiled all you could see was her gums," Vidal said. "She had one tooth, but she did not like to show you that tooth."

Vidal said she does not regret evacuating because her daughter's death, while an unexpected tragedy, could have happened anywhere.

"Right now, I just can't believe it," said Jason Foret, Vidal's fiance and the baby's father. "One minute she was here -- the next minute, she was gone."

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