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Stephanie Paresky

Sometimes, life changes on a dime. Such was the case for Stephanie Paresky of Richardson, who was 16 weeks pregnant with her now 4-year-old son, Solomon, when tests revealed a small lesion on his spinal column, a telltale sign of spina bifida.
 
“Within a couple of hours they have you on the phone [with doctors],” says Paresky, 38. “But you’re still in shock, trying to comprehend what’s going on. The first thought that went through my head was, ‘Is he going to live?’”
 
Options discussed included surgery in utero and surgery after birth. Paresky and her husband of eight years, Matthew, made the decision to forego surgery in utero, a relatively new procedure, and to focus their energy on preparing for the baby.
 
“There’s so much scariness in the unknown,” she says. “No two cases of spina bifida are the same, so it’s not like there’s someone you can call. But we knew that it was something we were going to face together. We consciously made the decision to focus on the fact that we’re having a baby boy. We picked up and moved forward.”
 
After his birth, Solomon had surgery to close the lesion on his back and place a shunt in his brain—typical for a newborn with spina bifida.
 
He recovered well and the family of three was home for a month, settling into their new normal, when Solomon woke up from a nap with difficulty breathing.
 
The Pareskys rushed to the hospital, where they ended up spending the next two months.
 
Ultimately, tests revealed Solomon had a rare complication known as Chiari malformation, which occurs when the rear tonsils of the brain compress the nerves, affecting the tongue, vocal chords and ability to swallow, among other things.
 
“All of a sudden he became a medically complex child,” Paresky says. He required a tracheotomy and gastrostomy button (which functions just like a feeding tube). Suddenly, the Paresky house was a hub for health care professionals and therapists.
 
The brand-new parents struggled to balance it all with their successful careers in marketing.
 
“I was a crazy person,” Paresky says. “I was in and out of the office constantly and wasn’t fully present in either situation.”
 
After graduating from the University of Arkansas with an advertising degree, the Missouri native worked for her alma mater in sports information with the men’s athletic department.
 
“I loved it,” she says. “I traveled all over the country with the different teams. It allowed me to meet people from different backgrounds and really broadened my horizons.”
 
As much as she enjoyed the work, the unrelenting travel schedule became tiresome. In 2006, an opportunity came up with The Marketing Arm in Dallas, and she jumped at it.
 
It was a career- and life-defining move. At the agency, Paresky managed sports sponsorships for AT&T—and met Matthew.
 
Now, the husband and wife work at Mosaic and Dr Pepper Snapple Group, respectively.
 
As sponsorship manager, Paresky oversees major sports sponsorships including SEC Nation, Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic and the Big 12.
 
“I feel so blessed that I’ve been able to work in sports for as long as I have doing different things,” she says. “It’s something a lot of people want to do and it’s hard to get into.”
 
Four years after Solomon’s birth, she’s finally struck a happy balance. She works 30 hours a week, Monday–Wednesday, leaving her free to field doctor’s appointments and therapy sessions on her off days.
 
On the rare occasion she has time for herself, she likes to practice yoga or plan a trip to visit friends in northwest Arkansas. Sometimes even a simple walk outside or trip to Target is the catharsis she craves.
 
Date nights are also of utmost importance. The couple plans weekly date nights up to a month out.
 
“I’m not going to lie,” Paresky says. “It’s definitely challenging because we’re both stressed to the limit … But you need to make sure you’re leaving room for your marriage. We’ve been through so much together and have made it through things most people don’t.”
 
Among their keys to success is to serve others. With his college roommate, Matthew helms Knickers or Nothin’, an annual golf tournament benefiting Wipe Out Kids’ Cancer. His wife’s latest passion project is to bring a wheelchair accessible playground to Richardson in partnership with the city and Richardson East Rotary Club. They are 14 percent to their $250,000 goal and hope to open the playground in 2019.
 
Difficult as the last four years have been, the opening of the playground is one of the many things the family has to look forward to. Solomon’s tracheotomy was removed in July, and now he’s more mobile than ever. He’s walking with a walker, talking and attending school.
 
Paresky is excited by the many firsts that lie ahead: swimming lessons, his first football game, his first visit to her hometown in Missouri, his first trip to Target with Mom.
 
“I can take him places by myself now,” she says. “Before I always had to have a nurse. I used to get sad when I’d go grocery shopping and see other moms with their kids. People take little things like that for granted on a daily basis. I didn’t even have that option. Those little things are so much fun now.”
 
The couple hopes to grow their family, and their careers show no signs of slowing down. Though Paresky isn’t the same woman she was four years ago, she says it’s for the better. She’s more understanding, more compassionate and more caring.
 
“When you have to fight and advocate for your child all the time, it changes you,” she says. “We’re in a world of special needs families now that we knew nothing about before. It makes you see things in a different way.”