Baby Camdzic

Let me first start by saying that a HUGE part of the reason I love my job is that it reconnects me with so many friends that I haven't seen in so long. Lauren and I were best friends in middle school. We took buddy pictures together, so technically, in 6th grade terms, that means we were BEST BEST friends. Right? (If you don't know what buddy pictures are, don't tell me because it means I'm old.)

Anyway, it's had to have been 15 years since I last saw her (that number stings a little because again, I'm old.) My family moved across town, and I moved schools in 7th grade, so my buddy picture friends were no longer geographically desirable. Especially when you're too young to drive. Of course, we have kept up with each other over social media. Lauren and her husband, Anel, have been in the process of building their home for quite a while now - longer than they would have liked - but wow, was it worth the wait. It is insanely gorgeous! Everything custom designed and planned to accomodate all of their needs, and then some!

When Lauren asked if I would photograph them in their new home, I was totally up for the task! Not to mention it would include a reunion, so of course I said yes! We had a difficult time coordinating our schedules, but when she reached out again, she let me know that I would also be helping them with a HUGE announcement: The Camdzic's were having a baby! I'm 100% sure I screamed at my computer screen when I saw her message come through. I always see her photos of mouth watering meals, so I thought: what better way to announce than through food? So, that's just what we did!

You see, this session was really really special to me. All of them are, because I am always honored that you choose my photography for whatever reason. I truly never get tired of taking photos and editing them. But this one was close to my heart because although I haven't seen Lauren in real-life over the last 15 years, I have followed her life and all that she has overcome. Below, I am posting a clip from her blog titled "Pretty Wheels" to give you a glimpse of her story in her own words.

"Friday, July 15, 2011 started out as boring of a day as they come. I got up at an unspeakable hour and commuted 60 minutes from Douglasville to my internship in Midtown Atlanta. I was lucky enough to have been chosen (in a very aggressive competition, I might add) to participate in a summer-long internship at a global PR agency, and I was soaking up every minute of it.

That Friday morning, I probably put together some media lists, wrote a blog post, and monitored for media coverage of our clients. I brought left over Stouffer's lasagna for lunch, and it was creeping up on lunchtime when I learned of a team lunch at South City Kitchen instead. Obviously I was totally on board with SCK, because, fried chicken. No brainer.

We left shortly before noon to walk across the street for lunch. The formation we were walking in was a loose group-- a few in the front, some in the middle, and I was bringing up the caboose. We began crossing the street when I heard tires screeching out of the parking deck, followed by someone laying on their car horn. When you live in work in Atlanta, those noises are just par for the course, so I didn't immediately think anything of it. It was probably just another reckless driver, right?

Two seconds later, I hear POP POP--and see my coworkers ahead of me start to run. I didn't immediately know what was going on, but I saw them quicken their step, so I followed suit. I remember taking the last stride I will ever take, then a few more POPs. Man down.

I remember feeling the gravel beneath my hands and arms, which had hit the concrete hard. Rocks were stuck to my hands, and I couldn't move or feel anything from the waist down. Still not knowing exactly what had just happened, I looked up and called to my coworkers and anyone who would listen-- 911! 911! I can't move my legs! It took a few seconds for me to actually put two and two together. My first thought was-- did I just have a stroke?! Then-- did I get hit by that erratic driver?!

While my mind was racing trying to put it all together, my coworkers and strangers on the street were frantically calling 911, and offering to help in any way needed. One lady gave me her cardigan to rest my head on so I didn't have to lay my face on the ground. Another man claiming to be an EMT offered to help, too. In all the clutter going on around me, I hung on by a thread while my coworkers calmly talked to me and kept me alert until the ambulance could get there.

By the time the EMTs arrived, I was struggling to breathe. It felt like my entire chest was caving in on itself, which by that point, was my focus. Breathe.

Still not totally clear on what had transpired, I saw the EMTs unload the orange body board and head stabilizer. Why is that necessary, I thought. Then, M'am, do you know who shot you?

Um, pardon?

Shot me? What do you mean shot me? Like, with a GUN?

It was completely unfathomable.

To answer their question, no, I didn't know who shot me.

Next thing I knew, I was on the way to Grady Memorial Hospital. The EMTs were cutting my clothes off with scissors (which was very upsetting, by the way. I was wearing one of my favorite outfits. RUDE) and I was fading in and out between playing Twenty Questions with the EMT. What is your full name? What is your phone number? What is your address? and on and on. I don't even know how well I answered those questions. I do remember saying, I can't breathe, I can't breathe, like a broken record, and hearing, No Lauren, don't close your eyes. Stay with me. Talk to me.

My next memories are of busting through the ER doors at Grady like you see in the movies. People are yelling and giving instructions and asking questions. Then, bright lights in my face. Nurses trying to comfort me. I'm still yelling BUT I CANNOT BREATHE. I found out later, in those moments I couldn't breathe, I was bleeding internally. My lungs were collapsing. There was a bullet hole in my liver. I was dying.

Then, some of the most excruciating moments I will ever experience: undergoing an operation, and being fully aware of every slice, every needle, everything.

Finally, relief. The nurse asks if I want to see my mom. Is that even a question at this juncture?

Mom comes in and we pray the most desperate prayer I will ever utter. God, please let me live. I want to live.

In the days following, I slept a lot, ate very little, and spent a lot of time in pain. After surgery to stabilize my spine, learning I have a permanent spinal cord injury, and getting the answer to my prayer--that yes, for now, I would live, I was discharged to a rehabilitation hospital with a whole lot to learn about how to function in a "new normal" as they call it.

So, here I am. Living my "new normal." Happily, these days, there are more good days than bad, thanks to my supportive family, friends, and strangers. You'll learn more about that, I promise.
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FAQ:

-Who shot you?
...A man who worked for the security company that "secured" the building where I work.

-Did they catch him?
...Yes. He actually turned himself in shortly after the shooting.

-Why did he do it?
...Google it. Not getting into that here.

-Did anyone else get hurt?
...Yes. A coworker was shot in the leg and just a few minutes before he shot our group, he carjacked another woman, sadly killing her in the process. This explained the screeching tires I heard coming from the parking deck exit.

-Is he in jail?
...Yes. He was sentenced to life in prison plus 60 years without the possibility of parole.

-Will you ever walk again?
...I think my doctor's exact words were, it would be the equivalent of hitting the spinal cord injury lottery. Thanks, doc.

-How are you doing now?
...Stay tuned."




I'd say now is a good time to tune in :) 5 1/2 years later, and Lauren has overcome so many obstacles, and still does every single day. I want others to know her story because it is truly inspiring. She has managed to stay strong and witty with a great sense of humor, and hasn't allowed those obstacles to keep her from driving, cooking, working full-time, traveling, going to concerts, UGA football games, getting married, and now, becoming a mother. There are many happy days ahead, and I was so incredibly honored to help jump start this journey. Thank you to the Camdzic's for allowing me inside your home and inside your lives. I can't wait to meet Baby C!