Believe it or not the kids in that picture are one and the same.
The picture on the right is Anne Marie, September 2014, on her first day of pre-school, or spree-school as she calls it. She’s 2 1/2 years old and about 27 pounds in that shot.
On the far left is Anne Marie too. It was her first week of life, March 2012. Anne Marie was a micro-preemie, born 3 1/2 months early in week 25, she weighed 1 pound 12 ounces and was 12 inches long. If not for the doctors, nurses, and staff at the University of Tennessee, especially in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, she would not be alive.
Anne Marie was not alone. She has a twin sister, Linda Claire, same weight, same length. Linda Claire passed away 5 hours after birth. Thanks to the UT staff, Linda Claire also survived the birth. It was what didn’t happen in week 21, no lung development due to lack of sac fluid, that left Anne Marie to go it alone in her 5 month stay at UT Med Center.
17 November is World Prematurity Day. You know I’m not entirely sure what these “Awareness Days” accomplish, other than allowing parents like me to brag on and remember our kids. I mean, yeah I’m going to shake you down for money at the end of this, but hey I can do that any time. World Prematurity Remembrance Day might be better.
We look at Anne Marie run into her spree-school classroom and we remember the days and nights in the UT NICU wondering if she would survive. We remember the constant buzzing, beeping, and blipping of the myriad of equipment hooked to her and all the babies in the Big House, the large ward were the preemies fought their battles literally side by side. We remember the docs and nurses working tirelessly morning, noon, and night; dealing with heart monitors, feeding tubes, needles, and of course deer in the headlight parents. I even remember little George, a boy making his fight just the other side of Anne Marie. George was thriving one day and gone the next. No answers, no reason, no explantation, just gone. So we remember.
Of course every March 22nd and July 29th and Christmas we go to Linda Claire’s resting place and remember the events that altered our family forever. I remember Tracy digging deep at the moment of truth, realizing she would have to keep her head amidst the chaos of the triage room if these kids were to have any chance at all. I remember the doc who was working on Linda Claire, he just couldn’t bring himself to give up. I remember another doc, a kid really, a kid I would come to call TopGun, telling me someone had to make a decision. The someone was me, the decision was to keep going or stop extreme measures, with just a few more hours with our Linda Claire the only result, no matter the call.
I didn’t want remember any of that. But it turns out it feels good to remember, feels good to cry a little. There is some joy in the remembering, some sanctuary in the story telling. Awareness Days come with a lot of stats and facts, but Linda Claire isn’t just a statistic, she’s our story and we’re hers. Anne Marie isn’t just a fact, she’s a reality. Something she’s fond of reminding us everyday.
No, these kids aren’t stats and facts and fund raiser flyer material. They are part of who we are. They’re part of our history and thankfully, our future. They shape us, reveal things in us we might not have known about ourselves. They are our story.
Take it from me, they are a story worth telling.
If you must, here’s a link for the stats and facts: https://www.facebook.com/WorldPrematurityDay
And if your heart desires, donations can be made to:
In Memory of Linda Claire Linardo
Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the University of Tennessee Medical Center c/o Office of Development
2121 Medical Center Way, Suite 110, Knoxville TN, 37920