ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — The Kirkwood community is rallying around a former teacher whose baby girl needs specialty care after she went into a coma just days after her birth.
After growing up in Columbia, Missouri, and graduating from the University of Missouri in 2008, Tahira Terkman started her teaching career in the Kirkwood School District at Westchester Elementary. She taught 5th grade from 2008-2011.
After her time at Westchester Elementary, she left for Libya, where her father was from. She continued her career in education, met her husband, moved to Turkey, and now lives in Oman. She and her husband, Abdullatif, have lived in Oman for nine years.
Terkman said they decided at the beginning of 2021 to start a family. She gave birth to baby Jennah on October 27, 2021. She said all tests throughout her pregnancy came back perfect, with no signs that anything could be wrong.
“We have the crib, we have the stroller, I mean we had the car seat in the car that day going to the hospital, and then coming home without her was devastating,” Terkman said.
She said after she gave birth, it was the only time she’s been able to hold Jennah. Since then, her newborn has been in the NICU.
“She ended up being quite sick when she was born,” Terkman said. “She slipped into a coma on the third day of her life.”
She said Jennah was born with abnormally low muscle tone, which is also called hypotonic. She said Jennah was moved to another hospital and doctors ran tests and everything would either come back perfect, or inconclusive.
Terkman said doctors have since diagnosed Jennah with metabolic or mitochondrial disorder, which often goes hand-in-hand, but the hospitals in Oman can’t provide Jennah with the care she needs.
“This situation with her is very critical and they do not have the specialization that is needed for her because her case is very very unique and they really haven’t ever seen anything like it before, and they suggested we take her back to the states,” Terkman said. “The biggest issue right now is getting her there, since she is intubated, in an incubator, needs ventilation, all of those things, we have to take her in a very special way, which the safest way to take her is in an air ambulance.”
The care Jennah needs is more than 7,300 miles away, at Akron Children’s Hospital in Ohio. Jennah has an American passport and is ready to go, but the price tag for the air ambulance is $136,000.
“She’s stable enough to be fit to fly, so the hospital here is prepared to discharge her, the hospital in Akron is prepared to accept her and admit her,” Terkman said.
Now, the families of students Ms. Terkman once taught, are rallying to help her family of three.
“There’s always a handful of teachers that make a huge difference in your child’s life and she was at the top of the list for him,” said Joanne Owens, whose son had Terkman as a teacher in 2008.
“The first thing I did was donate what I could and shared and shared,” Owens said. “Ms. Terkman was just amazing at really really helping the kids embrace who they were and making them all part of a family group. There were just connections. I mean they had T-shirts, the ‘Terkminator’ T-shirts. When she left, she gave Caiden her globe, he still has that globe, she really was just an incredible person.”
Jennah’s grandparents also set up a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of the air ambulance.