Turning pain into positive action isn’t something that comes easily to most people. It’s probably not something that comes easily to the people who manage it! But for many parents of preemies who find themselves facing grief and loss, doing someone for someone else is the only balm that even begins to heal the hurt. The origins of Graham’s Foundation arose out of pain, and President Nick Hall is still channeling his feelings into action – most recently as he trains for an upcoming half marathon benefiting the foundation.
Preemie parent Amber found herself hurting after the passing of her son Liam. Today her memories of his life are as clear as ever, but her pain – rather than being overwhelming – is inspiring her to honor Liam’s memory. Here is her story and information about how she’s helping others.
In November 2012, I was over the moon to find out I was pregnant. My excitement was tempered with a little anxiety because I had had a miscarriage the year before. Just a week later I had some bleeding and was referred to the ER. Everything seemed to settle down and for the next few weeks things were fine. I started having spotting again at 22 weeks and had lots of pain and pressure. Was sent to the ER and they told me everything was fine and to just take it easy. By the following Monday, I was having contractions 10 minutes apart and the doc had me rushed to OSF.
On April 1, 2013 I was admitted to OSF Hospital due to having symptoms of pre-term labor. They started multiple medications and kept me under observation to stop the labor. On the third day they found that I had a rip in the sac and that my cervix was slightly dilated. They continued to watch me and the baby close. That following Saturday they explained that I couldn’t stay on the medications because it put risk to the baby, and that they would need to start steroid shots to help the baby’s lung development. By Sunday evening I was in full labor. My son was born April 8, 2013 at 2:49am. My baby boy was 16 weeks early, only 23 weeks gestation.
We were repeatedly warned that our son, already named Liam, would be extremely ill and may not survive his birth. Liam was born weighing 1lb 9oz. and was taken straight to Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
Later that night I was wheeled up to see Liam, he was tiny, covered in wires and his skin was extremely red as the skin is very translucent and all blood vessels can be seen. Liam was breathing on his own but was as they had warned very ill. Liam made it 12 hours of breathing on his own before he needed the breathing machines.
Liam survived the first night and continued to have his ups and downs until he was 4 weeks old when he got an infection and was going to need surgery on his PDA. This was his first major trauma and we had family there to support us and had pastor there to do a blessing. We stayed by his side and watched as some days he would have great numbers and others not so good at all. They ended up cancelling the surgery due to the infection, and that he just wasn’t strong enough. At this point, we still hadn’t even gotten to hold our son. We finally held him the night before he passed. On Saturday May 11, 2013 we lost our son. He just couldn’t fight or hold on any longer. We both held him while he died then along with a nurse bathed and dressed him and wrapped him his blanket. He was such a fighter and so strong through it all, I think he just got so tired. Our tiny baby could fight no more.
Later that night reality hit home when our beautiful new born baby boy left the hospital by a back door in his little white coffin, not out the front door in his new car seat. Literally overnight we had gone from planning our son’s future to planning his funeral. Life would never be the same again and I couldn’t begin to comprehend what was happening.
I replay and can remember it all like it was yesterday. We went through so much but the time we had was so precious. He was our whole world, our everything, our miracle.
The days, weeks and months that followed were painful and often isolating. No one knows how to deal with the death of a baby. We don’t love our children by the amount of time we have them for; we love them because they are our children. A mother or father’s love for their child is from the moment we find out they exist. And our grief is the same.
This race is in honor of our strong, brave, amazing son Liam, and for all of those other neonatal babies that have or haven’t survived. It’s to raise money and awareness for our Neonatal department so that they can continue to save lives daily. The smallest and sickest newborns require special care to grow and become healthy. OSF NICU is designed to create a healing environment centered around the needs of those tiny babies. Our goal is to support and to help them do just that!
A RACE TO REMEMBER
DATE: SATURDAY MARCH 29TH, 2014
LOCATION: FIVE POINTS WASHINGTON
***ALL PROCEEDS GO TO OSF CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL OF ILLINOIS-NICU***
PLEASE MAKE CHECKS PAYABLE TO: AMBER SMITH /Race To Remember
MAIL TO: RACE TO REMEMBER/LIAM
170 SHADOWAY DR
EAST PEORIA, IL 61611
CONTACT NAME: AMBER SMITH
CONTACT PHONE: 309-922-1499
CONTACT EMAIL: [email protected]