Three days is nothing. Nothing, except when the future of your family and a piece of your heart hang in the balance.
Karla Kay McCombs stood there, peering through the glass, searching for an answer. Only three days which seemed like an eternity. Karla didn’t know which one, she only knew if things went as they were supposed to she would soon hold the one, her little baby girl.
There were a lot of newborns in the nursery in that Oklahoma hospital, and the nurses kept turning one around so Karla couldn’t see her face, the one who Karla longed to take back home to Texas… as long as the baby’s mother didn’t change her mind. There was to be no contact between Karla and this baby girl, until the birth mother was sure. Until she signed the papers.
Only three days.
Under the laws of the state of Oklahoma any mother who elected to give up her baby for adoption had 72 hours to change her mind. Karla was feeling fairly confident this would all go as planned. Though the two women lived in different states, Karla had stayed in touch with the birth mother throughout the pregnancy. “We actually met before the baby was born,” says Karla. “When we met it was a very warm feeling, she hugged me and thanked me in advance. When we went to the attorney’s office prior to the birth, I even bought her an outfit for that appointment. We just created a bond. I think going that extra step made a difference.”
It did – but that’s just how Karla lives her life – going above and beyond for others. Making a difference. And she wanted this baby to make a difference in her own life. Karla had always wanted a big family, but after a series of miscarriages and within a year after the birth of her second son Jeremy she was diagnosed with a malignant mass in her uterus. The treatment for this uterine cancer meant a complete hysterectomy… devastating to Karla because it effectively ended her chances and her dream of having more children. Karla and her husband had already been through so much. Jeremy was a miracle baby to begin with – since in-utero he was a twin – the other baby stopped forming at five months. But Jeremy was born full-term.
Karla wanted to adopt another child, but the fact that she and her husband already had children put them at the bottom of the request list. However seven years later, through the relative of one of Karla’s in-laws, here was another chance at expanding the family love. The young woman who had gotten pregnant in Oklahoma decided she wasn’t going to keep her baby. Still, after giving birth she had three days to change her mind, if she wished.
Finally, day three. And on this third day of waiting the attorney handling the case appeared in the hospital waiting room with the paperwork, signed by the birth mother. “Let’s go get your girl”, he said. Karla remembers the moment and the decision to name her daughter. She and her husband had two names picked out, Emily if the child was a quiet soul, Danielle if she was boisterous and crying.
When Karla met this new bundle of joy – the baby was screaming. Easy decision, her name would be Danielle.
Danielle’s adoption was like history repeating itself. Karla’s childhood consisted of four siblings, three brothers and a sister, who had also been adopted. “I was 11 when we adopted my baby sister,” Karla says. “I was the only girl for a while. I was a tomboy, played softball and basketball. When my sister Paula came along – we adopted her at six-months-old – suddenly I had a baby and got to do all the girly things. She was quite the gift to our family. We adopted her from my father’s half-sister, she was in a tough family situation. But once we brought her into our family she was spoiled rotten. She is the chosen child, just ask her. She reminds us of this all the time,” laughs Karla.
After adopting Danielle Karla and her husband were back home in Texas with their two older boys and their new baby girl – and life was a challenge. Karla and her husband were married at a very young age. So young in fact that Karla’s father had to go to court and sign for her to wed. With the court papers in hand, just two months after high school graduation, Karla was a new wife. Her goal of becoming a teacher, after graduating early, never materialized, she and her husband went right to work. Karla went into the real estate business, first in administration then managing rental properties.
“I loved it,” says Karla. “I loved helping people find a place to live. Though I hated the court process when it came to evictions… people not paying their rent and then forced to be out on the street. It just went against my grain.” Karla loved to help people, not hurt them.
Karla’s husband went to work where her father was employed, building landing gear for airplanes. But the marriage, which took flight when the couple was very young, increasingly found it more difficult to find a soft place to land and a few years after Danielle joined the family, Karla and her husband separated. She was now left to help raise her two sons and her young daughter on her own.
Divorced and working as a single mom, Karla managed to find work at an insurance company as a transcriber, listening to and recording conversations. Karla says she learned to type 125-words-a-minute. She worked the job as a stop-gap until she met a man named Jim McCombs, who would become her husband. Jim also introduced Karla to a woman – Lee Strahan. To this day Karla says Lee, who lives just a few blocks away in her Grapevine, Texas neighborhood, is the one who keeps her grounded. “Lee keeps me sane”, says Karla. “She helps me find the good when life gets crazy. She’s good at talking me off the ledge. She takes the drama out of everything and takes the situation piece-by-piece and looks at it from a different perspective. She is very kind and warm-hearted, I just adore her.”
At the time they first met Lee was also working as the assistant to a man named Ron Jensen, who was head of a company called UICI. Karla was hired by the company and worked in contracts and compliance before becoming assistant to Troy McQuagge when he was hired in 1997… and helping to support and build on Troy’s mission of HOPE, Helpng Other People Everyday. “It’s my favorite part about the company,” says Karla. “HOPE is our mission and I try to be that person to move the mission forward. It’s just what we do and it’s become very important. Troy has built this wonderful company and to have HOPE at the heart of it is just amazing. Troy and I have been working together for twenty years now and he is one of the most important men in my world. The opportunities he has provided for me and my family I can never repay.”
The company has also helped Karla to expand on her life’s desire – to have a big family. Danielle added to the joy of her two boys more than a quarter century ago – and for the past twenty years Karla has embraced many, many more “kids” in her family. The agents and leaders who make up USHEALTH Advisors. “I am just so grateful for our field force,” she says. “God knew the answer and I now have a huge family.”
Karla’s own family is thriving. She was re-married in 2000 to Jim McCombs and with her step-son Jimmy, she now has four children. Just a few years ago Jim gave Karla quite a scare when he was forced to undergo open heart surgery. But he pulled through and Karla says it’s so wonderful that he loves her kids as much as she does. “Life today is awesome,” says Karla. “All four of my kids are college graduates, all have careers, Jimmy and his wife are happily married and we already have one grandson, and another on the way in August. The kids are all close, live close to us and our world is our family. It’s very important to Jim and myself.”
The other parts of Karla’s family – her parents – George and Carolyn Gentry – just celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary this year. As Karla says they are a great example of sticking together through thick-and-thin.
Karla knows she learned so much from the two people who raised her and she carries this forward in all that she does in her life. “I’m about caring and putting other people first. I live by example. It’s important to me the things I do are right. Do things right the first time then you don’t have to re-live it. No matter what life gives you, always find the good in people and help as many people along the way as you can. Do that and your life will be very rich. The people in my world have made it very rich. My life is an open door policy – anyone is welcome – come on in.” As a matter of fact, today, on Easter, Karla will open her home as well – cooking and hosting nearly 20 people. As always, doing for others.
It’s that very sentiment that makes Karla who she is. That’s Karla with a K. The K is for kindness.
Until next time thanks for taking the time,