Steamboat Springs Exactly 11 months from the day baby Kyjah Merrin Burandt's parents were told their newborn girl would not survive the night, a gallon-sized jar of money, filled by generous residents for fighting the baby's liver transplant, was stolen from McDonald's on U.S. 40.
"As a grandmother, I am hurt," Hayden resident Kris Jones said. "And as a human being, I am (angry)."
McDonald's manager Brenda Elsbree is also extremely upset and has asked that Jones place another gallon-sized jar, complete with three pictures and a brief biography of baby Kyjah, be replaced in the restaurant.
"I have only positive things to say about the folks at McDonald's," Jones said. "There was really nothing they could do. They said the jar was there before the lunch shift, and by the time I got there around 1:45, it was gone."
In the past, a few gallon-sized jars of some $200 each have been collected from McDonald's patrons.
Jones has filed a police report, and although she is fairly certain the money is long lost, she said she intends to prosecute if any further information is discovered.
"I want this person to stand up in front of a judge and explain why they felt they had to steal money from a dying baby."
Steamboat Springs Police Department's William L. Stucker said the department will investigate the case, which is fully prosecutable, and that hopefully with some publicity, someone with information will come forward.
Baby Kyjah, who moved from Routt County with her parents, Matt and Kate, to be near the University Hospital and Children's Hospital, was born with an abdominal wall defect known as gastroschisis. Within minutes of birth, she was rushed into surgery to determine the viability of her intestine, which was 90 percent dead upon delivery. Medical professionals have been keeping her alive by feeding her through a central I.V. line that carries vitamins, fats and nutrients she needs to survive. The I.V. solution has caused severe liver cirrhosis so that without having her intestine, the liver will never be able to regenerate.
Medicaid of Colorado has paid the $15,000 necessary to list Kyjah at the nearest facility that provides the surgery she needs, which is in Omaha, Neb. There are a total of six transplant centers in the United States that will perform the type of surgery little Kyjah needs, and Medicaid will cover only the $15,000 cost of listing her for a transplant at one of the facilities.
"The more lists we can get her on, the greater chance she has," Jones said with tears in her eyes. "That money that was stolen today could've been the difference between her life and death.
"I know and understand the realities of what the doctors tell us and what they believe. They've told us that in four or five months, she may not be with us," Jones said. "But something in those big, blue eyes of hers, something about her, tells me I don't think so."
Jones explained her faith in the baby girl in part by describing her name; Kyjah is a Finnish name that means "earth."
"You don't get much stronger than that than the ground beneath your feet," Jones said of the incredible fight the baby has performed with every breath taken since her birth.
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