MOORHEAD — When Lizzy Bennett was born, the first few weeks were touch and go.
"Another thing that can happen when kids have breath-holding spells, is their heart rate will drop, and then turn blacker than an ace of spades, and they pass out. And that happened to Lizzy and they coded her," said Clare Garberg, who was on of Lizzy's nurses at what was then Meritcare's pediatric floor.
When Lizzy was born with critical medical issues, family could not care for her. Foster families didn't want the risk, and Lizzy spent months in the hospital with nowhere to go.
"One of the pediatricians was doing rounds, and I was in the room with Lizzy and he was like, 'what are we doing to do?' And I said, 'I can take her home.' I obviously had not thought this through, but I started thinking about it and I was like, 'I could.' We had four of our own, the youngest was two," Garberg said.
Knowing all the medical issues Lizzy had, Garberg not only cared for Lizzy at the hospital as a nurse, she took her home to her own family and became her foster mom.
"Once I made a commitment, she became part of the family immediately, and all the kids loved her," Garberg said. "Liz went everywhere with us. We had a kid playing travel hockey, and Liz had breath-holding spells in hockey arenas and we were doing CPR in hockey arenas."
When Lizzy reached age 21, Moorhead nonprofit CCRI stepped in and provided even more care and support services, but with Lizzy, it became complicated.
"Rocks. She will target rocks, and will target wires, silverware and anything she can get her hands on can become an object that can harm her," Garberg said.
Now Lizzy's apartment is intentionally bare and bleak. While there is no official medical diagnosis, Lizzy is known to, when having a behavioral break, rip off cupboard doors, knobs, appliance cords, seating stuffing or glass and then eat them.
"She has ended up in surgery more times then we can count to have things removed," Garberg said. "She doesn't want to ingest inedible objects; she knows it is not right. Afterwards, she is remorseful, and she tells staff she is sorry."
Those who love and care for Lizzy say she is so caring and just has no control over some behaviors. She became emotional hearing others talk about it.
"Glasses, she would grab someone's glasses, break them apart and swallow the lens. She will take off a sock and eat her sock. Are you getting sad?" Garberg said, noticing Lizzy listening to the conversation. "Oh, Honey."
Right now, Lizzy's apartment is bleak because so many things have been removed or encased to protect her and the staff. No lights and no glass framed photos on the wall.
On Tuesday, Oct. 5, fundraising was underway to get Lizzy a special house in south Moorhead that will be just for her and her caregivers.
"When you look at Liz, she is a ray of sunshine and joyous and smiley," said CCRI Director of Development and Communications Jody Dronen Hudson. "When I am home, I feel safe and secure, and Liz deserves the same thing."
The new house will be such a change for Lizzy, who will finally have a chance for her to call a place her home.
CCRI has another $91,000 dollars to raise for Lizzy's house. Anyone interested can help by taking part in CCRI's Tablescapes event Tuesday, Oct. 12, at the Moorhead Marriott. More info about this event can be found at ccrimoorhead.org/tablescapes/.