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What Patti and Alexandra’s House means to me
The best way to convey this is to have you walk a journey with my wife, Meri, and I. You might find that you or someone you know already has or is as you read this.
Meri and I were excited for the opportunity to move to Overland Park, KS with our employer as we knew that the area was a great place to raise a family. We were definitely ready to begin that chapter of our lives so it was perfect timing. When we learned we were going to have a baby shortly thereafter, we experienced all of the wonders that soon-to-be parents do – the fun of telling family, the butterflies of the unknown, and the anticipation of the wonderful and mysterious road ahead.
It is hard to describe the overwhelming joy and pride you feel when you go to the ultrasound to hear your unborn child’s heartbeat for the 1st time. If blessed enough to experience it, it is one of the most significant moments in one’s life. We were escorted directly to the doctor’s office after the ultrasound which, looking back, should have felt unusual. The technician had handled it very professionally as we were completely unaware of the news we were about to receive. When the doctors told use that Erin had an anomaly that was virtually fatal in the womb, you can imagine the massive slide of emotion we experienced from the highest joy to the deepest sadness and confusion in matter of moments. After more questions were raised than answers received and through tears, we left the doctor’s office stunned. Awareness is heightened in tragedy and I remembered they actually offered us a back way out of the doctor’s office so as to avoid the other expectant parents after receiving our news.
The rest of that day and the next were a little foggy as Meri and I tried to make sense of things. I remembered being handed a pamphlet for Alexandra’s House from the perinatal doctor’s office we went to for further testing right after the sonogram. Looking back, I knew something more powerful than me compelled me to call the number printed on it. When I heard the voice on the other end of the line say “I will take care of the three of you, “I sensed an immediate and overwhelming lifting of emotional burden from the voice I heard. That voice was Patti Lewis.
Patti’s road with us began with a hug, consolation, and understanding at our first visit to Alexandra’s house. We knew she felt what we felt from the start. We talked and we prayed. The road continued with her being with us during those awful weekly doctor’s visits not to check Erin’s heartbeat but simply to check for one. It wasn’t easy for Meri to receive congratulations from strangers that noticed her belly all the while knowing she was carrying a dying baby. Those weeks were trying. The day finally came when Erin’s little heartbeat could no longer be found.
Patti prepared a birth plan for the doctors and nurses ahead of our arrival to the hospital. These doctors and nurses deal with this sort of tragedy, and worse, almost daily. The birth plan simply reminded them that our experience there was going to be very personal, not clinical. Erin had a name, parents that already loved her deeply, and relatives that had been eager for her arrival. On that cold late November evening with snow and ice on the roads we went to the hospital. Without question, Patti met us there. She stayed with us the entire time as Meri endured the long hours of induced labor. Instead of leaving to get some real rest and to give us private family time, she stayed to rest on the chilly, uncomfortable chairs in the hospital waiting room. After Erin was stillborn the next morning, Patti arranged other Alexandra’s house volunteers, some with quite similar experiences, to visit us in the hospital. She arranged for a photographer as we desired. Later, she made arrangements for Erin’s fragile little body as we desired as well. She organized a memorial to honor Erin, and many of her volunteers attended along with our families. All of these things lifted the emotional burden of various responsibilities from us so all we had to do was experience the moments as a family.
These things are also only a fraction of what her mission offers to those who need it. Meri and I had the financial means to endure this and the emotional strength to see it through, but many do not. She offers a physical place of refuge and support at Alexandra’s House for less fortunate families while they attend to their sick baby’s needs at local hospitals. Occasionally, these babies are born and subsequently abandoned. Patti does not judge, only takes them in with open arms. She truly feels blessed with the honor of their care. Patti’s mission has and will continue to help people from all walks of life with the common thread of needing special care through a tragic time. She willingly lives in poverty so all of her resources are ready and available.
There are so many different stories that people could tell you about what Patti and her mission at Alexandra’s House has meant for them. We are all touched in different ways. I look back and think that one of the greatest honors to her is that Meri and I have moved on in our lives blessed with two more healthy children. I never question how it would have been different had she not been there during those difficult times. That is irrelevant because she was.
Most would not choose this mission. I hope reading this letter will raise awareness of the need for care, support, honor, and meaning to the some of the most vulnerable and innocent in our communities, our sick and dying babies and their families. Lastly, I hope that sharing a personal story of Patti and Alexandra’s house will inspire others join this mission.