by Elijah Jones
Baby Kenedie was born three months early -- Would she survive?
|My wife and I sat patiently in the nondescript and antiseptic lobby of St. Joseph Women's Hospital and waited for an update on our daughter Rachel's condition. We were just a few feet away from the small, brightly lit, gift shop that featured a myriad of lovely, colorful, and upbeat items designed to celebrate the birth of blessed events. It contained such things as T-shirts, ball caps, and cuddly animals. The hospital's "welcome desk" was aligned almost perfectly with the entrance's automated sliding glass doors. A child's play area was located just a few feet from the tan, soft cushioned seats where we waited. A television set bolted onto the wall, a few feet above ideal viewing height, flickered images of national and international import. I think it was tuned to CNN.
But we did not care about the "other" news. Our focus was on something more intimate. We were waiting for a visitation by an angel. But we did not know if it was the angel of life –- or death.
Was it only a few days ago (or a lifetime?) that I had received a phone call at work from my friend, companion and dear wife that our daughter, Rachel, had a condition called pre-eclampsia.
What was this word? What did it mean? I went online and did a search on Yahoo.
Eclampsia, it turns out, is a Greek word meaning "bolt from the blue." That is truly what the news was like. While I did not understand the scientific or medical definition, I quickly comprehended the reality: Rachel and the baby were at risk –- gravely.
The Sunday before, I had been concerned. Rachel, just six months pregnant, had returned from the beach, beet-red. Her ankles were swollen, and her face, puffy. Something seemed wrong. When I shared my feelings with her, she responded, calmly and upbeat:
"Don't worry, Daddy."
That was Rachel. A gem. From the time she was born, she was the classic middle child. Locked between a strong-willed first-born (Christi) and a gifted, savant-like last-born (Jesse) was Rachel. Dear Rachel. As my good friend Larry might say, "She ate the potato that fell on the floor."
As a child, Rachel hardly spoke -- until one weekend, when she realized that Christi was away. Then she burbled and rambled on and on. All she had needed was an opportunity -- just once -– to be "the only child."
I remember vividly how surprised my wife and I were at the sparkling cascade of words: "Rachel can talk?" And she did, once she was out from Christi's shadow.
What a remarkable child. At age 18 she had left home to go away to college. Independent. Determined. Goal-oriented. Never looking back -– except on those rare occasions when Mom and Dad might help.
And now she lay in an emergency operating room, shadowed by the love of her life, her devoted husband Aaron, a young man of insight, stature, and maturity, who had met this blessed treasure and married her.
But she was still "our little girl."
Rachel's doctor at St. Joseph's reminded me of Rudy Guiliani: He was a no-nonsense Italian from New York who knew how to make tough decisions in an emergency. And this was an emergency. He had walked into her room, carrying a chart, and saying things like, "I'm not liking what I'm seeing here. ... We might just have this baby tonight."
But I'd already been told that, ideally, they'd prefer to wait at least two weeks before the baby would be delivered. At worst, two days. Now, he was talking about two hours.
How could that be? How could things have come to this? Events were moving too fast. But his decisive demeanor gave me confidence.
Dr. "Guiliani" told the nurse that he’d wanted some tests. She hesitated.
"Now," he said, firmly.
And, startled, she suddenly turned, with military precision, to fulfill the assigned task.
Observing his intensity, I suggested that my wife and I –- as well as other family members –- leave the spacious but darkly lit room. This was a man who "meant business," and I thought it best that we get out of his way.
In the waiting room, we waited.
Aaron came out to us and said that Rachel was going into surgery.
I nudged my wife to the hospital chapel and shared with her the Bible verse that was hovering over my heart and mind: "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day." (2 Timothy 1:12)
We prayed together, as we had many times before, in other family crises -- too many to list.
Upon leaving the chapel, I saw a tract that featured a lamb on its cover. Remembering that Rachel (our daughter's name) meant "little lamb," I grabbed the tract and clutched it like a lifeline. Inside its glossy pages were printed the comforting words of the 23rd Psalm. "The Lord is my shepherd ... " And He was.
I knew full well that, given the circumstances, we could lose both Rachel and the precious little life that she carried in her tender womb.
Days ago, before this crisis, Aaron and Rachel had decided that they would name the baby-to-be, Kenedie. They said the name meant "noble warrior." I hoped and prayed that this premature child would live up to the challenges of the unusual and unique name these young parents had chosen.
My wife and I sat. And waited. Not able to do anything but pray –- and hope.
They say that time is relative, and I suppose they are right. The minutes in that waiting room seemed like hours. Even today, thinking back, I can recall how time stood still. Painfully still.
Then, an eternity later, Aaron walked out into the lobby. He was smiling -- broadly.
"Rachel did great," he said. "Awesome."
And the Baby?
She had done well, too.
They had both survived. Hours ago, in my mind, I had been planning a double funeral. Now I celebrated and praised the God in whom I had believed for so many years but about whom –- in this case –- I had wondered if He could truly deliver.
But there were challenges ahead.
Baby Kenedie had been born three months early and was given little chance of survival. She weighed but one pound, 10 ounces at birth -- and then lost weight. She was tiny and scrawny. Her splotchy, maroon-pink skin hung on her little body like a saggy bag. Her head was the size of a tennis ball and covered with peach fuzz. She had trouble breathing. So many wires and probes and tubes were connected to her, that she appeared as if she were caught in a spider web. She looked like she came from another planet. I was frightened. What would the future hold? I did not know.
* * *
Kenedie came home July 14, 2003, (a day before her due date) after nearly three months in intensive care. For the first month she spent at home, Kenedie had to be hooked up to oxygen and a monitor, but, thankfully, she now breathes on her own. Rachel is turning out to be a wonderful Mom. And Aaron, her husband, has been great, too. We have a photo (taken just after she was born) that shows Kenedie with her Daddy's wedding ring on her arm -- with room to spare! It helps remind us all just how small she really was. We call her the "miracle" baby. She is truly a testimony that miracles can still happen –- even now, in this scientific, analytical and skeptical age. In my bedroom, on a wooden post, is a blue ball cap. Embroidered on its front are the words "Just Call Me Grandpa." I bought the cap a few minutes after the announcement of Baby Kenedie's birth. I bought it from the brightly lit gift shop, located just a few feet from where I got the news of her birth. I wear it to remind of a miracle baby. The birth of "the little warrior."
UPDATE: Kenedie celebrated her first birthday on April 17, 2004. Recently she was the featured guest at the March of Dimes Walk-a-Thon on Siesta Key Beach in Sarasota, FL. Her Aunt Christi co-chaired the event. Kenedie's Mom, Rachel, gave a brief, but stirring, talk. A number of people's eyes misted up during the presentation. God continues to use "The Little Warrior" as a blessing to her family -- and others.