A 1-year-old from Michigan was given the name Ruby Pearl because she's a "rare jewel," dad TJ Bunker tells People, which reports on the poignant story of the baby and her family as they deal with the litany of serious conditions she's been dealing with since she was born. Those include several holes in her heart, not being able to see or hear, and suffering from glaucoma, epilepsy, and chronic lung disease, among the many illnesses listed on her GoFundMe page. The fundraiser was put in place to make up for what the family says it's given up or lost "to help keep our baby girl alive." Those sacrifices have been enormous, they say, including being evicted from their home and having to sell their business to pay for medical bills. Bunker says the "odds were stacked against [Ruby]" since mom Margaret VanTongeren found out she had low amniotic fluid while pregnant.
Doctors said Ruby wouldn't survive more than a few hours after her birth, but the little girl Bunker calls his "warrior" has persevered, despite multiple brushes with death. VanTongeren shares the story of her "miracle" baby on Facebook, explaining that the family, which also includes 11-year-old Daron and 2-year-old Tommy, is holed up for now in a 20-foot trailer until they can afford to upgrade to a bigger RV so they can move to Utah, where the drier air will be better for Ruby's health. "Our situation is not understood," Ruby's parents write on GoFundMe, saying they've been unable to get state assistance. Still, they consider every day with tiny Ruby a blessing. "I've learned that we don't need a lot to get by," VanTongeren tells People. "We're together and that's what really matters." (A very sick infant set to be an organ donor was taken off life support—and unexpectedly survived.)