Comfort Care Honors Life, Too: Why Sometimes Medical Intervention Is Limited For Premature Babies

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Recently an article was published that ignited outrage in the pro-life community, the baby loss community, and beyond. Twin babies were born alive at 22+ weeks, and medical intervention was not an option offered to them.  As I read the words, and the ensuing comments, my heart ached for the family…and for the medical staff of a very respected hospital. Sufficient Grace Ministries has been honored to work alongside the compassionate team of nurses and physicians at this particular hospital many times. While I do not want to get into the logistics of the article, and I was not part of this story, nor do I know all the details, I do want to clear up some misconceptions about medical intervention in cases of premature infants for the public.

We provide bereavement support and remembrance photography for families facing perinatal loss throughout the state of Ohio and train medical personnel throughout the country on providing support for patients experiencing perinatal loss. It is common practice in the majority of the hospitals we work with that families who experience the birth of a baby prior to 24 weeks (occasionally 23) are not offered medical intervention as an option. For various reasons. One example is the premature rupture of membranes. In those cases, babies are often born alive and live for minutes to a couple hours. It is the policy of most hospitals in Ohio to not attempt life saving measures prior to 24 weeks. Some hospitals may go by weight or other indicators…(500 grams is a weight for some hospitals). A baby may be assessed and an exception may be made. But 24 weeks is the current accepted age for intervention/viability. This may vary slightly. Obviously we all hear those rare cases where intervention is done prior to 24 weeks. And a miracle happened. But many times, these little ones are just too tiny to survive, even with intervention. So they are given to their moms to hold and love on until they pass.

Why would a hospital not offer medical intervention prior to 24 weeks:

  • Many hospitals are not yet equipped to perform life-saving measures on babies under 24 weeks.
  • Although there have been a handful of cases of babies who miraculously survived at 21-23 weeks gestation, it is still very rare. The age of viability is still considered to be 24 weeks.
  • In the majority of the cases, we still do not have the technology to consistently provide life-saving measures for babies born under 24 weeks gestation.
  • Babies born at very early gestations who do survive face many debilitating health issues.

 

According to an article published on the Very Well Family website and reviewed by a physician: “In many hospitals, 24 weeks is the cutoff point for when doctors will use intensive medical intervention to attempt to save the life of a baby born prematurely.” This is accepted throughout the country, not just in the state of Ohio.

We have found this to be the case in our work as well. And, while as bereaved parents and birth professionals, we understand the pain of watching a child born alive but not being able to save the precious little one, we also understand the limitations of medicine.

One of the misconceptions put out into the media frenzy was that the staff was not supportive of life or compassionate because they did not intervene to save the babies. While I understand at first glance, that may seem the case, and I was not present for that family’s situation, nor do I know the details, I do know the hearts of most of the labor and delivery nurses we encounter.

Nurses and doctors, almost universally, are healers. Nurses, especially are wired to be caregivers. Everything in their nature and everything in their training leads them to want to fix what is broken…to heal the sick…to save a life. Everything.

The cases when a mother’s labor cannot be stopped and a baby is born too early to save are incredibly difficult for medical personnel. I have held many nurses in the hallway, who tearfully proclaim, “It is so hard to do nothing. Everything in me wants to rush to save this life.”

Most of the time, families with babies born prior to 24 weeks experience comfort care. Comfort care can still bring great emotional healing when families are offered support and options. Comfort care honors life, too. It is not doing nothing. It is filling whatever time we are given with our babies with love. I have stood beside many mothers and fathers as their babies born from 19-23 weeks have quietly passed in the arms of their parents, surrounded by the love of family. Even in the midst of the broken, there can be great beauty. It is peaceful. Babies do not suffer. They are put directly into their mothers’ arms and loved from this life into eternity. We marvel at their tiny feet and hands, as we create mementos and capture the moments of their brief lives. At Sufficient Grace Ministries, we honor all life and believe wholeheartedly in the sanctity of human life. We view comfort care just as life-honoring as intensive medical intervention…whether a baby is given a life-limiting diagnosis in pregnancy or whether a baby is born too early to save.

In the cases when families who receive a life-limiting condition are given the choice of medical intervention or comfort care…they weigh the options for their family, their baby, their diagnosis. They may pray and agonize over what is best. There are no right or wrong answers for these impossible situations. But, we must be careful about making snap judgments. Both families who choose intervention and families who choose comfort care are honoring the lives of their babies and valuing human life. Medicine does have limitations, and sometimes peaceful, gentle moments with a baby are the best a hospital can offer.

We send our prayers and stand in love and solidarity with all families grieving the loss of their sweet babies…and with the beautiful nurses and physicians who offer their best and many times carry grief in their hearts for the ones that couldn’t be saved.

For support and/or Dreams of You Comfort/Bereavement Resources, visit our website.

Sweet Eva: Miracles on Earth and in Heaven

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On this last day of Anencephaly Awareness month, we wanted to share the story of sweet Eva. Sufficient Grace Ministries Comfort Doula Kelly Gerken and SGM Remembrance Photographers: Erin Foster (maternity) and Kristi Bodey, along with the teams from Life Connection and Purposeful Gift had the privilege of walking with this family through their time waiting to meet their beautiful baby girl. Eva is so loved. She defied many of the odds, living much longer than expected…a life filled with miracles…even though it was brief. She was able to donate organs for research, as described in her mother’s brave and beautiful words below. Parents, Katie and David, were surrounded with the love and support of their family and friends, their support team, and covered in so many prayers…every step of the way. Sufficient Grace Ministries was honored to attend appointments with this family, helping with the planning process.

One of my favorite memories with Eva and her family occurred during the last moments of her life. The song Good, Good Father was playing on the computer. I sang along quietly as Eva took her last breaths while being held by her mother and father. Miraculously, her color…which had been slightly purple due to low oxygen and blood flow…changed minutes after she was taken to heaven. She was restored to a typical rosy newborn color. No one could explain Eva’s miracle. But, her family knew it was just another gift from their heavenly Father…a reassurance that she is perfect in heaven and that they would meet her again one day.

The beauty, courage, love, and faith Katie and David share shines in their eyes and in the telling of their story. It was an honor to watch them walk this path with beauty and grace…the sweetest beauty…even in the broken.

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Let me tell you about my daughter…

by Katie Yankee

Let me tell you about my daughter…

If I could tell you something about my daughter Eva I would tell you that she was a fighter. She fought the odds. She proved everyone wrong. She fought to give us almost 6 hours with her.

 

If I could tell you something about my daughter Eva I would tell you that she was strong. Just when we thought she had taken her last breath, she took another.

 

If I could tell you something about my daughter Eva, I’d tell you she was strong-willed. She was sassy.  She knew what she liked and what she didn’t like and she wasn’t afraid to let us know.

 

If I could tell you something about my daughter Eva, I’d tell you that she was beautiful. She had the most perfect little lips.  Even amongst great pain, even amongst the ashes, she brought us beauty.

 

If I could tell you something about my daughter Eva, I’d tell you that she was a miracle. Her skin lightened just seconds after she had passed into Jesus’ arms, something no doctors could explain.

 

If I could tell you something about my daughter Eva, I’d tell you that she was light in the midst of darkness. She showed us that there can be joy in the midst of great sorrow.

 

If I could tell you something about my daughter Eva, I’d tell you she was a hero. She donated 6 organs for research, to help improve the lives of others.

 

Many people said that I did something special because I chose to give Eva life even when I knew she would die. But let me tell you something about my daughter… It was Eva who gave me life. It was Eva who taught me to treasure each moment, to protect the ones you love fiercely. She taught me to fight. She taught me to be brave. She taught me to live with no regrets. She showed me that there’s a strength in me… Not because I’ve done anything special, but because He died for me.  That strength comes from Jesus.

 

Let me tell you something about my Jesus.. He holds a piece of my heart in His hands and her name is Eva.

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Don’t Cry for Me

Written by Kevin Park (Eva’s Grandpa) from the perspective of Eva Kathryn Yankee

Don’t cry for me Mommy, I am happy and blessed.. Jesus called me home and my soul is at rest.

Don’t cry for me Mommy, you and Daddy gave me life. Five hours and forty-two minutes was a miracle, and there is no strife.

Don’t cry for me Mommy, they said I would not breathe. But I breathed and I cried and I held Grandpa’s finger, and because you asked- Our Father let me linger!

Don’t cry for me Mommy, my body is perfect.  My cry used to be hoarse, but now I sing with a big voice, of course.

Don’t cry for me Mommy, I am running in a field.  My bare feet are squishy in deep heavenly clover, and then I see Jesus and He just called out to me, “Eva Kate, come on over!”

Don’t cry for me Mommy, I am sitting on Jesus’ lap.  Everyone is belly laughing because Jesus just began to rap.

Don’t cry for me Mommy, Jesus is telling me a story.  When I was in your tummy, He whispered into your ear.  He said my name means life and He helped to take away your fears.

Don’t cry for me Daddy, daily ice cream here.  Blizzards in heaven have more chocolate and whipped cream.  I know yours are good Daddy, but ours are like a dream!

Don’t cry for me Daddy, I know you would like it here.  The wine is so sweet and the deer are all running.  The does are very fast and the bucks have racks that are stunning.

Don’t cry for me Grandmas and Grandpas, I know you held me tight.  You loved me so hard and you helped me fight. Your prayers and your faith helped me see the light.

Don’t cry for me Kelly, you helped my mommy so much!  Especially your love and dedication, your faith, your smiles, and your touch.

Don’t cry for me friends and family today, because although my life was not long, our God was glorified and Mommy and Daddy’s faith was so strong.

Don’t cry for me anyone when you think of me today, for I am with my Savior and friend Jesus who said I am a keeper and he asked me to stay.  God the Father and the Holy Spirit, too, have given me the chance to laugh and play and do a heavenly dance.

There is no reason to cry and no reason to mourn, for I was so blessed since the day I was born.

My Mommy and Daddy are forever blessed for their commitment to life and our Savior- passed the test.

My life is recorded in history today!  Eva Kathryn is my name and I came to say: My life gave my Mommy and my Daddy and family a chance to profess their faith and think about the eternal dance.

Heaven is a place that you could not describe until you knew me and could see where I was going.  So don’t cry for me today, because now you know what I am knowing.  That our faith and our love of our God helps our minds to see the showing.  The angels and the cherubim are dancing and singing and I am dancing and singing too, and my dress is glowing.

I love you Mommy and Daddy.  You are so awesome and your faith is so strong.  But don’t cry for me- for I will see you again soon, I promise you it won’t be very long!

——————-

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Arya’s Story

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  May is Anencephaly Awareness month. At Sufficient Grace Ministries, we wanted to share a couple stories of perinatal hospice families who have given birth to precious babies with this life-limiting condition. Comfort Doula, Kelly Gerken and Remembrance Photographer, Brittany Yankowski had the honor of walking with Brittany Lacourse and her family through their time [...]

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The Season of Womanhood No One Talks About

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  This season of womanhood has taken me by surprise. It isn’t just the slowing metabolism that leaves behind some less than welcome curves and cushion, or the merciless effects of gravity on my once svelt-ish middle-aged physique. Nor the hot flashes, the insomnia, or the myriad of uncontrollable emotions that were much more easily [...]

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I Danced

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Last Saturday morning, I walked with a family as they said goodbye to their baby. My heart ached for them as we created some tangible memories. I carried them with me…pieces of their pain, forever woven into the fabric of my heart. Every time I wash a tiny baby foot, the humbling privilege of washing [...]

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Embracing the Gift of Time: Micah’s Story

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  Over the last couple months we’ve had the honor of walking with the Wilhelm family as they waited to meet their son, Micah. I will let Micah’s mother, Jenna, share the details of their story below. But I wanted to share a bit from my own heart about our time with this beautiful family. [...]

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SGM Christmas Extravaganza 2016 Winners

Thank you to everyone who participated in the SGM Christmas Extravaganza 2016! Congratulations to the winners. Please email us your shipping address with the item(s) you won in the subject heading and or the text of the post to: sgm.shipping@gmail.com. Day One: Ornaments Ornament #1 goes to Talia Hammer Ornament #2 goes to Anna White [...]

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SGM Christmas Giveaway Day Five: Books!

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This year, we have been delving into some bible studies that can be life-changing. God’s Word is so powerful and life-breathing…and…alive. A great time to start a study is at the beginning of the year. So, Christmas is the perfect time to offer some of our favorites. We’ve included Seamless by Angie Smith (a study [...]

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SGM Christmas Extravaganza Day Four: Words and Pictures

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Today’s giveaways are… 1…. a Wooden frame with various slides you can display, offering words of comfort for grieving hearts. 2. A memorial picture frame To enter, please leave a comment telling what you hope to win and some words that have been an encouragement or comfort to you in your grief. ♡

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SGM Christmas Giveaway Extravaganza Day 3: Dreams of You and Angels, Too

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Each year, Sufficient Grace Ministries sends hundreds of Dreams of You memory packages to grieving parents worldwide. We never charge parents for our products or services, but do ask for shipping donations. However for the rest of this week, we will be offering our FREE Dreams of You packages with FREE Shipping thanks to the [...]

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