I wrote about baby Cole here and have wanted to share more of his story for a long time. I kept putting it off though because I didn’t know if I’d be able to find the right words. As I sat at my computer late tonight working though, my thoughts and heart came back to Cole and everything that transpired almost one year ago. I decided it was time to attempt to find the right words to share Cole’s story with others.
Jane and Jeff are our very close friends who actually are more like family than just friends. Although we haven’t known them forever, once they came into our lives, it was as if they had always been there. Jane has been by my side through many ups and downs over the years. As a true friend, she wants nothing but the best for those she loves and is always there to celebrate the highs, and is the first person there with a hug and the right words during the lows. We have been side by side through many of her own chapters in life – long-distance relationship, wedding planning, stressing about whether or not to have an outdoor wedding and then the even greater stress of what to do if it ended up raining the evening of the outdoor wedding, family drama (oh, you don’t even know the drama, although we wouldn’t have it any other way!), fertility challenges, the answered prayers of pregnancy, unheard of morning sickness, the awful, horrific, heart-wrenching battle with postpartum depression, the clearing of the fog and the sun shining again, more fertility challenges, miscarriage, the answered prayers again of another pregnancy, more debilitating morning sickness (which really has nothing to do with the morning at all) and through it all – lots and lots of laughs, story-telling, late nights and dinner parties. All the struggles, challenges and fears faded in significance though on August 1st.
Jane, Jeff and three year old Kathryn went to Bermuda for vacation with Jane’s parents, siblings and their spouses. At 23 weeks into her pregnancy, she was just starting to see some relief from her “morning” sickness and was looking forward to sun and relaxation with her family. She was especially anxious for some quality time with Kathryn, since Jane felt enormous guilt for not being the mom she wanted to be during the five months she’d been so sick. During a trip to a pharmacy though on their second day of vacation, she took her blood pressure. It was off the charts high and not good for a pregnant mom. She was immediately admitted into the Bermuda hospital where they monitored her and did everything possible to control her blood pressure. Two days later, the Bermuda doctors suggested Jane return to the U.S. Although the doctors were confident that bed rest would keep Jane and her unborn baby healthy, they explained that in case of emergency, they didn’t have a NICU that could care for a micro-preemie. After some discussion, it was decided Jane would fly on a med-evac plane back to Tulsa and Jeff and Kathryn would stay in Bermuda with the rest of the family. There wasn’t room on the plane for Kathryn and since, at the time, it seemed as if Jane was just going home for hospitalized bed rest, it made sense for Jeff to stay behind with Kathryn.
The next few days (and weeks) were a blur, so I’ll run through them as quickly as they seemed to pass through my head. I met Jane and the med-evac plane at the hospital at 3:00 a.m. Tuesday night/Wednesday morning and slept in the chair in her room waiting for any updates from her doctor. The ultimate goal was to get her vitals under control and we hoped worst-case scenario was that she would be in the hospital until she delivered 3 1/2 months later. Best case (in our minds) was that she would be sent home and put on bed rest there. By Wednesday though, her body wasn’t responding to the treatments and we realized she probably wasn’t going home for quite awhile. Jeff made it home by Thursday and was by her side at 5:00 Friday afternoon when the doctor said they couldn’t afford to wait any longer. Jane’s body was fighting the baby and her body was winning. The doctor scheduled an emergency c-section for two hours later. Although Jane was hardly even showing yet and hadn’t worn most of her maternity clothes, she was about to deliver her baby at 23 weeks.
I stood outside the operating room with Jeff’s parents that night. We hardly spoke…there wasn’t much to say. Just tears and silent prayers. The doors suddenly opened though and I’ll never forget the proud daddy’s smile as he walked out with his baby boy. He looked at me and asked if I had my camera, but I had left it at home. I wasn’t sure what to expect that evening and didn’t know if it would be something I’d want to document. I regretted it at that moment though as I stared at the purest love known – a parent and child. No matter what lie ahead for them, at this moment it was just a dad and his son. I rushed into Jane’s room and grabbed my phone to take this picture.
David Cole weighed 1 pound 1 ounce at birth. His chances of survival weren’t great and he faced obstacles too numerous to count. In the meantime, Jane’s body was still battling and she was gravely ill. The text messages, emails, cards, flowers, prayers, gifts, meals, support and love came flowing in over the next few days, weeks and then months. Jane healed and went home a week after Cole’s birth to be with her daughter as much as possible, while still visiting the NICU as much as possible to hold, swaddle, talk to, pray over and love on her son.
Every obstacle that Cole faced over the next few months, he came through with shining colors. There wasn’t a nurse or doctor in the hospital who didn’t know his story and speak in amazement at what a fighter he was. There were no medical explanations for how someone with such a tiny start was able to thrive as he was. Prayers continued to be answered and milestones were reached. The week of Thanksgiving, doctors told Jane and Jeff it was soon time to take their son home. They had much to be thankful for.
On December 5th, Cole went home to be with his family. It would be the first time Kathryn would be able to kiss him and hold him since it was too risky for a toddler to visit the NICU. It was a day I will never forget and I was grateful to be able to capture it with my camera.
Jane and Jeff’s lives, their families’ lives, and my life will never be the same as we carry the memories with us always of Cole’s birth and his courageous battle to live. I can’t wait to see what great things lie ahead for him. He is a continuous inspiration to me and a daily reminder that miracles do happen.