Spina bifida is a type of birth defect called a neural tube defect. It occurs when the bones of the spine (vertebrae) don't form properly around part of the baby's spinal cord. The cause of the birth defect remains unknown. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 1,500 babies are born with this life altering condition every year. Unfortunately, Karlie was born with the most serious type of the defect confining her to a wheelchair. Every day is a struggle that I can't even begin to understand. I've watched my little sister battle her way through life in a way that no little girl should ever have too. I've seen the frustration that she feels every time she tries to do something that seems so simple for everyone else yet takes an immense amount of effort for her, I've seen the sadness and longing that she feels every time I am allowed to do something for myself that she simply cannot, I've seen how useless she can feel when she needs to ask others for help, I've seen the loneliness that she feels when her friends have all grown up and are able to leave and start new lives for themselves while she feels that she is stuck. In spite of everything, I've also seen my little sister grow up to become the strongest and most courageous person that I know. I've watched her laugh at her challenges and exceed expectations. I've watched her smile when she accomplishes something that seemed impossible. From that very first day, on August 23rd, 1991 when she was born; Karlie has taught me things about life that are beyond comprehension to most. She has given me the gifts of patience, understanding, and persistence for which I will forever be thankful. Karlie is a miracle. It breaks my heart to know that 1,500 new babies will be welcomed into this world only to face the same challenges that my sister has endured her whole life. Life is hard enough as it is. It breaks my heart to know that after all of this time a cure or even a cause has yet to be identified. Donations to organizations such as the Spina Bifida Association can help. They can help these kids find the strength within themselves to make it through the tough days, the courage to try again on the bad days and the hope to smile at some point in every day.