“Somehow, it happens,” laughed Summer Karst when I asked her how she manages to do everything packed into her busy life. Summer is the co-owner of Random, a clothing boutique in Market Common, the mother of two girls, Vivi, 8, and Isla, 10, and is married to Timothy a history teacher and football coach at Carolina Forest High School.
This sounds fairy typical, but Isla was born with special needs. Diagnosed with PCH2 and epilepsy, she is in a wheelchair, has daily seizures and requires extensive daily care.
“Two weeks ago, my week started with an MUSC hospital stay with Isla, and ended with Isla, my mom and I in Atlanta on a buying trip for Random,” Summer told me as we chatted about her life.
“We didn’t know anything was wrong until after Isla was born,” Summer began, explaining PCH2 as a rare genetic disorder that affects the brain. The defect required Isla to undergo major surgery at only a year old, and since then she’s had full spinal fusion to fix scoliosis and kyphosis. Isla also has epilepsy that can’t be controlled with medication.There is no “typical” day in Summer’s life. Isla and Vivi both attend Carolina Forest Elementary School, but Summer may be called away from her boutique at any time. “A lot of times schedules don’t work out,” this busy mom said with a laugh. “I don’t have it all together, and sometimes you can find the kids at the boutique working with me.”
“I fail a lot,” Summer said, but anyone who knows her would disagree – as does Summer’s sister-in-law, Myndi Hillman, who recently wrote a tribute on Facebook, saying Summer, “doesn’t complain that life doesn’t always go her way…Just when she thinks the day before her will allow some down time it’s off to work to cover for an employee, or to school to pick up a sick child, or a child who’s had seizures. Some days it’s off to the hospital, for maybe a few hours or days. She would never in a million years say, ‘Why me God?’ only ‘Thank you Lord for my incredible imperfect, perfect life!’”
“She’s the funniest kid, we adore her,” Summer said when I asked about Isla’s personality. Isla can communicate with a high tech device that uses lasers to monitor her eye movements, but even without it Isla can make her wishes known – as she did on a recent visit to her pediatrician, when she responded with a loud “harrumph,” when the nurse asked her how she was doing – Isla did not want to be in the doctor’s office!
Isla and her sister Vivi are very close – Summer told me Isla is the typical big sister and thinks it’s hilarious when Vivi gets in trouble. Vivi, a protective little sister, can’t wait to bring her friends to meet Isla at school. The girls are very typical in many ways – Isla loves lights, and her room is filled with Christmas lights and a disco ball. She also loves blankets and has a huge collection. “Isla can be a stinker,” Summer laughed. “She’s been known to fake a seizure to get out of doing her schoolwork.” Vivi loves unicorns, barbies, dinosaurs, dragons and her three legged cat named Milton.
“From day one, we knew life would be different for us,” Summer told me thoughtfully. “We decided not to let Isla’s disability disable our family.” Because she owns a family business, Summer was able to step back for the first few years of Isla’s life. “I have been blessed by the support of the community and our customers. And I could not do it without our wonderful staff.”
Because their lives are so busy, Summer and Tim are careful to carve out the occasional dinner out or just a quiet hour at home to talk. “Parents of special needs children have high divorce rates, not surprisingly, so it’s important for us to schedule time to connect.”
“I’m not saying it wasn’t hard at first, but we are so grateful for the life we have – Isla has changed so many lives for the better.” For Summer, a big part of this journey is helping others. “Tim and I are always open to any questions about our life. If anyone needs to reach out, we would love to help in any way we can.”
Stop by Random Boutique and meet Summer – and maybe Isla! Random is located at 3315 Reed Street in Market Common or contact her on Instagram or Facebook, @randomboutiques.