Darquier family tells the story of why they ride the Courage Classic | VailDaily.com

Darquier family tells the story of why they ride the Courage Classic

Delfina Darquier
Special to the Daily

Editor's note: Delfina, Ian and Logan are riding their fifth Courage Classic to support and thank Children's Hospital Colorado for saving Owen's life. This is their story.

the Courage Classic rolls through Minturn and Vail today: thousands of bicyclists riding hundreds of miles and raising millions of dollars for the Colorado Children's Hospital.

Our family will be out there again because you work for the people who work for you.

Owen, our son, is now a healthy 4-year-old who rides at the back of his parents' bikes in the Courage Classic because he can, because he's alive thanks to the care he received at Children's Hospital Colorado.

Owen's favorite day is not Christmas or even his birthday. It's Day 3 of the Courage Classic, when he gets to hand out medals at the finish line at Copper Mountain.

Welcome to the world, Owen

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This story starts July 18, 2011, one of the happiest days of our lives. On this day, we welcomed our baby boy Owen into the world. Little did we know that we were just about to embark upon one of the hardest journeys we would ever face.

As soon as Owen came out of the womb and the nurses were checking his vital signs, they noticed that he had a murmur in his heart. They did an eco study on that same day and sent the results to Denver, since there are no pediatric cardiologists in the Vail Valley.

Owen had to be flown to Denver the next day. It was urgent and imperative to have him in a facility where they could keep him alive until the doctors decided what Owen needed. He was born with four congenital heart defects.

The longest night

That night was a true test for all of us.

Owen was taken to Denver and was spending the night at the hospital in the cardiac intensive care unit. My husband, Ian, was driving alone to Denver to be with Owen. I was at the hospital recovering from giving birth. Our little boy Logan, who was 2 years old at that time, was at our house with his babysitter. The whole family was separated and devastated with the news. The uncertainty of what was ahead was a horrible feeling, and all we could think of was worse-case scenarios.

Owen had his first open heart surgery at 6 days old and six more surgical procedures to try to keep his aortic valve open until his second open heart surgery at 9 months old.

I remember thinking, "Why him?" and "It's not fair!" and feeling sorry for ourselves for what we were going through.

Making miracles happen

Children's Hospital opened its doors to us and welcomed us to a new level of thankfulness. The people in this hospital make miracles happen every day.

I remember looking around the hospital, and after seeing what other people were going through, we actually felt thankful that we were not going through something worse than we were, even knowing that Owen was going to have heart issues for the rest of his life.

Perspective can be such a magical thing. We knew Owen's issues were going to be ongoing and not fixable with just one surgery. But we also saw kids who had to have heart transplants for their only chances of survival.

We knew that, after all, we were in a good place.

Becoming a normal kid

Owen's left vocal cord nerve was severed in his first open heart surgery, and this created extra problems. He could not drink liquids because the liquids were going straight to his lungs instead of his stomach.

He had a vocal cord nerve surgery last year in May, and this past February, the results of this surgery showed that he could finally drink regular liquids for the first time in his life — a major step toward being more of a "normal" kid, whatever normal may mean to you.

The first drink he wanted to try was water.

"I want to see what water tastes like, Mommy," he said.

Such a simple thing it is to be able to drink water, yet so strange to him. For the first week, he walked around the house with a full cup of water, drinking and drinking and going to fill up his cup every time he would run out.

Why we ride

Owen is now a happy 4-year old who loves sports and is very curious.

As a family, we couldn't be more thankful for everything the doctors and nurses did for Owen throughout all of his doctors visits, surgeries, pre- and post-ops and follow-ups. This is why we ride this wonderful event, the Courage Classic, every year to raise funds for Children's Hospital of Colorado. We have made it into our annual family July event. It is our way to contribute to this amazing facility and its incredible people who have literally given us Owen's life.

How can you ever repay something like that? We will always be in debt.

We are not the only parents in the valley who have had kids with health issues who needed special attention outside the valley. I am sure there are many families in our community who have gone through the same or even worse situations than ours. Raising funds for this hospital is a great way to help keep this venue up and running and equipped with the latest technology, so our kids can receive the best care possible.

Last year, it was a very special Courage Classic for us. My dad, Manuel, who is in his 70s, was visiting from Argentina and was able to ride the Courage Classic with us. I will never forget the whole family crossing the finish line together: three generations biking together for a great cause.

This year, we are riding again and with more to celebrate than ever. Owen is able to drink liquids, which is a huge step in the right direction.

The Courage Classic will go through Minturn and Vail this year today. Come cheer us on.

If you go …

What: Courage Classic.

When and where: Saturday, July 23.

• 77 mile (Copper Loop), 5:45-6:30 a.m. start, Copper-Leadville-Minturn (lunch)-Vail Pass-Copper

• 40 mile (Vail Pass), 7-9 a.m. start, Copper-Vail Pass-West Vail (lunch)-Copper

• 10 mile (Family Ride), 9 a.m. start, Copper-Vail Pass Rest Stop-Copper (one heavily-stocked aid station, but no full lunch stop on this route)

More information: To support the Darquier’s team in the 2016 Courage Classic, visit http://www.childrenscoloradofoundation.org/courage-classic/donate and search for “Delfina Darquier.” For more information about Colorado Children’s Hospital or the Courage Classic, visit http://www.childrenscoloradofoundation.org/courage-classic.