SEELEY LAKE — Every family has its story.
In the Treasure State, some families count back generations of Montana roots and others are just beginning their Montana chapter.
For one South Carolina family, the journey to becoming a Montana family is filled with as many twists and turns as the road that would eventually lead them home.
“We actually spent our honeymoon out here, and loved it since our honeymoon, we dreamt about it all the time, but never in a million years thought we would live out here,” said Kayla Conley.
The pictures show a young, happy family taking trips to national parks and siblings snuggling together on holidays. “We just always wanted family,” said Kayla.
Looking at the Conleys, you’d never guess their toughest challenge came at what should’ve been the most exciting time — the birth of their first son, Sam.
“I was laying in bed and just not feeling good at all, and then all of a sudden things got really bad and really scary really fast, and Daniel took me to the emergency room,” Kayla told MTN News.
Sam was born at 24 weeks om;y 90 minutes later. The complications that followed came as fast as Sam’s entrance into the world and doctors had their doubts more than once.
“They’d just look us right in the face and say, ‘Listen, we've done all we can. Make the most of your time,’” said Daniel Conley.
The uncertainty of Sam’s survival had Daniel and Kayla doing what no parents should ever have to do.
“I remember we had planned his funeral, and we just had all the different things that we wanted to do and how we wanted to celebrate his life and just focus on what we had with him instead of what we didn't have,” said Kayla.
These plans would never pan out, and after months on life support, the family went home — all three of them. Looking at his now 10-year-old son, Daniel sees more than a growing boy, “I see God's grace.”
But miracles come right alongside hardship. Following his triumphant trip home, Sam required around-the-clock intensive care for months. Turning to her husband, Kayla said, "and so future children were not a thought in our mind, not even close.”
Sometimes, life works in frustratingly mysterious ways. Sam hadn’t even reached a year old when the Conleys discovered they were pregnant with twins.
Shocked and terrified, Daniel and Kayla hoped for a better pregnancy the second time around. That, however, would not be the case, "at 26 weeks I went into full blown labor,” said Kayla.
Back to the hospital, they went, rotating shifts as Daniel stayed home with Sam and Kayla stayed in the hospital with the twins — William and Avah. “We went from zero children to three micro preemies in ten months,” said Kayla.
Parenting proved nothing short of chaotic for the Conleys, still, they knew their family wasn’t complete just yet. A third pregnancy a few years later offered them redemption and a little girl named Joanna.
With a family of six, the Conleys were complete but according to Kayla, “the story definitely doesn’t end there.”
Last year, Sam developed anaphylaxis – severe, life-threatening allergic reactions. Around the same time, the Conleys were planning their first family vacation.
“So I’m thinking, ‘maybe we shouldn’t go, is this the correct thing to do?’ questioned Kayla, “Then this overwhelming peace came over me…this will be good for Sam.”
They headed west to Colorado where their destination offered something they never could’ve predicted — good news.
“Within 24 hours, his hives were gone, his airways clear, we weren't using his inhaler. I mean, it was the most tremendous change I've ever seen in a human being,” said Kayla.
His specialist said a combination of the pollen, lack of moisture, and the environment proved better than any medication. “We were at a point where if we can fix one thing, we're going to fix it,” said Kayla.
The mountains were calling, and for once, the Conleys had control. So, they looked for property out west, eventually landing in the place it all began 15 years ago — Montana.
“It’s been healing for him, but for our whole family,” said Daniel.
With a bucket list a mile long, including camping, skiing, and climbing mountains, the Conleys are fitting right in.
Montana’s biggest treasure is the families who call it home.
“It’s almost like I was fighting a battle in South Carolina, but the battle’s slowly going down here. We still have to be careful, but it’s been smooth sailing pretty much,” said Sam.