This past Friday night, my husband, Joe, and I attended an amazing evening of hope. It was a benefit dinner celebrating the first year of life of a remarkable little fighter and the hospital that gave him life. The evening was put on by Team Easton Gives Back, benefiting the Hurley Medical Center Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). The amazing Clark family celebrated their extraordinary little boy, Easton, by giving back to the doctors, nurses, staff and Center that saved his life early on. This night reminded me how fragile life can be and how much hope and strength exists in children, especially my own little fighter, my son Brady.
We met Easton Clark and his family though my sister Shannon. Shannon's best friend, Tara, is Easton's aunt. Easton Clark was born with a very rare disease, PPHN, which caused life threatening complications. Luckily, Easton was born at a Level 3 trauma hospital, Hurley Medical Center, and, after many weeks in their NICU, he was discharged to his family. He has fought, he has grown, he has thrived and his family has never forgotten how truly fortunate they are to have their little boy. Easton's family, especially his very strong and determined mother, Lindsay Clark, organized an incredible evening of hope, strength and thankfulness. Her benefit dinner raised thousands of dollars for Hurley Medical Center's NICU. Throughout the evening, I couldn't help but think about my own family's story. My own family's experiences in the NICU. My own family's fortune at having my little boy, Brady, growing, thriving and fighting each and every day for the past, almost, four years. The Clark family's gratitude to the doctors, nurses, and staff at their own NICU brought me back to a very dark and overwhelming time at our own NICU at Royal Oak Beaumont. It is also reminded my how truly fortunate we have been, to be able to receive the incredible and compassionate care of the staff at such an amazing speciality Center.
Our son Brady spent the first three weeks of his life in the NICU at Royal Oak Beaumont. He was born with laryngomalacia, hypotonia and a very rare chromosome duplication. He had difficulty breathing, thriving, and adjusting to this world. There were days, my husband and I let the scary "what ifs" creep in. There were days, we were afraid Brady's big sister, Molly, would never get a chance to hold him. There were days we wondered if he would ever get a chance to lay in the waiting crib decked out in sports gear galore in is empty bedroom. But every day was a day we held on to faith and hope. Always hope. Always faith in those caring for our son. Always belief in our little boy. Just like the Clark family.
I knew going into the evening that the Clarks would speak at the benefit dinner. I knew they would share their son's story. I had spoken to Lindsay's sister and I knew she would speak about her little boy Easton's journey and why she was gathering all of us together to celebrate the Hurley NICU. So, right before dinner began, over 200 people found their seats and quietly watched as the lights dimmed and a sweet video of Easton Clark's first year came across the giant screen. As the precious images of a beautiful newborn little boy flowed into frightening images of a baby hooked up to tubes and vents and laying in an incubator took over, I felt the tears start. But once Easton's mommy took over at the microphone and began to tell her little boy's story, I could not stop the flow of tears. Her story was my story. Easton's story was Brady's story.
Of course, the illnesses, the circumstances and the paths each of our little boys' lives have followed have been different, but the pain, the fear, and the overwhelming desire to fix what is broken with your helpless baby, is the same for any parent of a NICU baby. But, more than anything else, it is the feeling of faith in your little fighter that carries NICU parents through such an unimaginable life experience. It is never giving up hope. It is always having faith. We share this with the Clarks. I knew what I was feeling was so real, because halfway through Mrs. Clark's speech, I looked over my shoulder at my big, strong husband and saw the tears stream uncontrollably down his own cheeks. He smiled at me and I knew he was thinking exacty what I was....that we never take anything our son does for granted, because we know what he fought through to get to the day to day. We know that each day is a gift and we are forever grateful to not only our own NICU doctors, nurses and staff, but to all of those who give so much to help guide our special little ones to health and always try to find ways to give parents hope. A very big thank you to the Clark family for reminding us how far we have come and to never take anything for granted.