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A sweet recall of a short life

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PROVO — A year ago today, Star Quayle spent 11 unforgettable hours in a delivery room at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center.

When it came time to leave, however, Quayle didn't wrap the baby girl named Anna Marie in a blanket for the ride home. Instead, she handed the baby's lifeless body over to a nurse and prepared herself for an impending funeral.

Knowing her daughter would be born without a skull because of a rare birth defect called anencephaly, Quayle had picked out a tiny white casket long before she went into labor.

Instead of perpetually mourning, Quayle has decided to celebrate Anna's short life.

"It's been a year, so I wanted to do a birthday party in memory of her for somebody else," Quayle said. "I knew nobody would care about a birthday party for a deceased child, but a chocolate extravaganza — that might get someone's attention."

Quayle recruited the help of Utah Valley chocolate merchants and entertainers, who donated their candies and services to tonight's event.

For $5, partygoers can dip fruit into a chocolate fondue fountain, watch hula dancers perform or visit vendor booths. All proceeds of the event from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. tonight at UVRMC Northwest Plaza, 1154 N. 500 West, Provo, will go to the Newborn Intensive Care Bereavement Program.

The volunteer program helps families cope with the loss of a newborn through peer counseling and by providing remembrances such photos, ceramic hand and foot molds and memory boxes, infant clothing and blankets.

"The volunteers that work with the bereavement program have all experienced having a baby pass away," hospital spokeswoman Janet Frank said. "They try to create mementos that the family can take home with them so they'll always have something to remember their baby by."

When Quayle and her husband, Aaron, found out that Anna Marie had anencephaly, they had only been married for a month, although they'd lived together for more than a year with Quayle's two young daughters from a prior marriage, Celeste and Sydney.

But the couple's honeymoon quickly ended when Quayle went in for a routine ultrasound.

A doctor informed Quayle that her baby had a defect that keeps the skull from forming and exposes the brain to amniotic fluid, which deteriorates the brain and causes death.

Today, the Quayles continue to remember Anna Marie with photos and videos taken of the baby's short life. And they're continuously touched by the ways her death has helped them grow closer and reach out to others.

The family helped comfort Kevin and Heidi Bardsley, whose 12-year-old son, Garrett, disappeared during an August Boy Scout camping trip. He is presumed dead.

But death doesn't overshadow the Quayle home.

Quayle is expecting a fourth daughter. Doctors have determined the baby does not have the rare birth defect. Quayle hopes her experience will help others count their blessings.

"We just take life for granted," she said. "Just because somebody's pregnant, doesn't mean they know what's going to happen."

If you go . . .

WHAT: "Chocolate Extravaganza" to benefit UVRMC bereavement program

WHEN: 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. tonight

WHERE: Clark auditorium, UVRMC Northwest Plaza, 1154 N. 500 West, Provo

COST: $5 entrance fee

A memorial table will be available for anyone who would like to display photos or poems in remembrance of loved ones. Contact Star Quayle at 356-0871 for information.

E-mail: lwarner@desnews.com