MEET THE H.E.A.R.T.S. OFFICERS:
The founding officers of the H.E.A.R.T.S. support group include (from left to right):
The story of H.E.A.R.T.S. begins with just that unfortunate event - a broken heart. Five bereaved mothers from the Northern Kentucky area found one another after experiencing the painful sorrow of losing their babies. Through a variety of paths, and interweaving losses, these mothers discovered that though the losses of their precious babies each occurred under different circumstances, the pain associated with those losses was quite similar. Thus began deep friendships, and the determination to bring about much-needed support for local Northern Kentucky and Greater Cincinnati families coping with the loss of a baby.
After close to two years of trying and several months of seeing an infertility specialist we were elated to find out I was finally pregnant in February 2006. It was total shock and disbelief a few weeks later when we found out we were pregnant with triplets. The weeks and months were flying by as we were trying to prepare for our 3 news babies, all boys.
On June 12, 2006 I was admitted to the hospital for preterm premature rupture of the membrane (PPROM). The following day, on June 13, 2006 our first son, Randall, was stillborn at 19 weeks. I spent the next 10 days in the hospital still pregnant with our other two sons. On day 11, it was found that I had developed a severe infection, and our second and third sons, Andrew and Joseph, were born on June 24, 2006, at 21 weeks. Andrew lived for 1 hour and Joseph lived for 2 ½ hours. At 21 weeks, they were too young and under developed for the doctors to even attempt to save our babies.
We were so blessed that our family was there with us. They got to take turns holding our sons and telling them hello and goodbye, making memories that would have to last a lifetime. Two days later, we left the hospital empty handed and broken hearted. We buried our three precious baby boys together on June 30, 2006. The weeks and months that followed were full of hurt and pain. My husband grieved in his own way, keeping busy around the house and going back to work. I found a few online support groups and read book after book on pregnancy loss. We both attended a support group in Cincinnati, but it was a 45 min – 1 hour drive.
When Gina contacted me, I knew right away that I wanted to be part of starting a support group in Northern Kentucky. Although my husband and I made the long trip to the support group in Cincinnati, I knew many people would not. Northern Kentucky is too large and has too great a need for a support group; it is time to meet that need. I feel truly blessed to work with such wonderful women and be a part of this much needed group. The experience I had with my sons has been life changing and I cannot think of a better way to honor their memory than to be a part of HEARTS.
My name is Kendra and my husband Bob and I wed in 2006. Being a little older, we planned on getting pregnant right away. Well, our plans didn't go quite that smoothly. We were married for a year when we decided to seek help. After doing infertility treatments, we finally got pregnant. What a joyful time! We were on cloud nine - words can't express the excitement we felt!
We shared our news with our family and friends and started dreaming dreams and making plans for our little one. Since we were working with an infertility specialist, we were able to have two ultrasounds and got to see our little one's heartbeat - what a miracle, the gift of life we were blessed with! Our specialist released us to my regular OB and I called to set up our 3 month checkup and ultrasound. We went in that day so excited and happy.
Unfortunately our dreams were shattered with a silent and still ultrasound, as our little miracle had not made it. Our world came crashing down in that moment, and we were forever changed. We had lost our child, a child we had prayed for, dreamed of and longed so much for. Miscarriage...I'd heard the word before, but never had the emotion I now attached to it. That one word can shake you to the core and change your world.
One year later we found we were pregnant again - so much fear, excitement, anticipation and uneasiness. We have been blessed with a beautiful, healthy little baby boy. Colton is a miracle and completes our life. We talk to him about his brother or sister and know they were playmates in Heaven. We will never forget our first child. Our angel will forever hold a special place in our hearts...Our journey to healing has been slow and steady. Our lives are forever changed because of the experience and the love and loss we have had. But in the end we are blessed and lucky to have had the time we did have with our little one no matter how short it was.
Hello! My name is Lisa. On November 2, 2003, my husband and I discovered that we were expecting our second child. After having struggled for a year and a half with infertility, we were thrilled to know that we would soon be parents again! Our then five-year-old son was elated. For months, we made preparations and renovations. We were so delighted to know that we would be blessed with a new addition to our family who was due to arrive on July 7, 2004. The months passed with bothersome morning sickness, but no “real” complaints. On February 24, 2004, my husband’s birthday, we watched in awe as our bundle of joy moved innocently about on the ultrasound monitor. We learned that we were having a daughter and life could not have been much sweeter. My family was complete and we knew we now had our “Alexis MacKenzie”.
On June 22, 2004, our wedding anniversary, I began to have painful contractions. My husband and I bolted to the car and made our way to the doctor’s office. Unfortunately, I was told that the contractions only signaled early labor and was sent home, disappointed, but thrilled with the knowledge that little Alexis would soon be making her much-anticipated debut.
Over the next few weeks, the contractions came and went, and I noticed that Alexis had become less active than usual. I knew that something seemed off, but the doctors always dismissed my concerns with the apathetic response that she “sounded fine and measured well” and that “babies tend to become more quiet as labor progresses”. Had I just been more aggressive in requesting further testing to ensure her well-being, I might very well have Alexis here with me today.
Unfortunately, such is not the case. On July 6, 2004, just one day shy of my due date, I awoke with a feeling of dread. I knew something was terribly wrong, but I could not pinpoint the source. After showering and eating a light breakfast, I realized that I had not felt Alexis move since late in the night. I called the doctor’s office in a panic and, after some bickering, they agreed, albeit begrudgingly, to see me.
Upon our arrival at the doctor’s office, a check for fetal heart-tones and an ultrasound confirmed our worst fears. Our precious, long-awaited daughter was gone. I was induced that afternoon and after a lengthy and exhaustive labor, Alexis MacKenzie was born still, as scheduled on July 7, 2004. She was just as perfect as we had envisioned her. She was 7 pounds, 4.2 ounces of flawlessness. Her perfect, lifeless body was marred only with the bruising of having no circulation during delivery. As a mother, I craved just to breathe life into her. Unfortunately, just hours later, I left the hospital with empty arms and a shattered heart.
Happily, in May, 2005, we were blessed with the birth of our boy/girl twins, Brady and Payton, and in September, 2007, we welcomed another addition, little Grant Alexander, and in 2011, we added our youngest son, Griffin, to the mix. Today, my family approaches life with a whole new respect. Though, like any family, we have our disagreements and upsets, we also love and enjoy one another with the realization that life is short, and each day is infinitely precious. We will forever remember our beautiful Alexis as a member of our family, and we will move forward in the knowledge that her short time here will leave a lasting legacy of providing outreach to those families touched by the loss of a baby.
In April, 2008, we incorporated the Missing Alexis Foundation - known now as Missing Alexis, LLC (www.missingalexis.org) to help provide support and comfort to families having experienced the loss of a baby in the Northern Kentucky area. Through the foundation, I was introduced to Gina, Andrea, Kendra and Erin, and together, we formed the H.E.A.R.T.S. Group of Northern Kentucky. I have found in them the comfort, compassion, support, understanding and friendship that only a parent who has lost a child can truly relate to, and I feel extremely blessed. I believe through our grief, God wove our lives in just a way that our paths would cross, and we would join together to make a difference in our community. What an incredible journey this has been.
In August, 2007, after almost two years trying to get pregnant, my husband Tim and I were very excited to find out that we were expecting. We went to the Dr. thinking we were getting an 8 week ultrasound and we were surprised to be told there were three heartbeats. We both started laughing excitedly. We were so surprised and excited. I was pregnant with triplets!!! We had so much fun going to each family member’s house to show them the ultrasound picture with 3 babies and watch their face as they figured out what the picture was really indicating. Then at the 16 week ultrasound we found out we were having three boys. The fun, and sometimes fear, of planning for three boys began. At 19 weeks, I was admitted to the hospital to be put on bed rest because I was showing signs of premature labor. After a month in the hospital trying to hold off labor, my water broke for my son Andrew and he was born on October 30, 2007, at 23 weeks, 4 days. He lived for about three hours and we treasure the time that we got to spend with him holding him and loving him. Two days later on November 1, 2007, our second son Jack was born still. We took great comfort in knowing that he was already experiencing complete happiness in Heaven. Many of our family members were able to be at the hospital on each of those days to get to hold and spend time with our boys. After Jack was born, my contractions all but stopped, and Will was able to stay put for four more days. In this time he was able to pass the critical 24 week mark and he received steroid shots to help with his lung development. He was born at 24 weeks, 3 days and lived for 22 days. During his short life in the NICU, he encountered several issues that were all related to his prematurity. He ultimately died from NEC (Necrotizingenterocolitis) which is when the bowel dies. We feel so blessed to have had Will with us for those three weeks before he joined his brothers on their playground in heaven. Andrew, Jack and Will are forever a part of us and our lives. We know they are happy up in heaven and we’ll be able to hold them again someday.
In 2011, my husband and I were blessed to adopt our son Gus. He brought so much joy back into our lives. We were thrilled to find out I was again pregnant when Gus was not quite a year old. That excitement was taken away from us at the 12 week ultrasound appointment when we found out the baby had stopped growing at about 9 weeks. I think that because of what we had been through having lost our triplets and having had so many fertility struggles, I was sort of numb to the pain that came with that miscarriage. Thankfully we were able to adopt our son Mac in 2013. Our house is now filled with joy and happiness and much gratitude for our wonderful children.
After losing Andrew, Jack and Will, my husband and I attended a support group through our hospital in Cincinnati. It helped us so much to be around other parents that understood the pain we were experiencing and that could relate to our daily struggles. We will be forever grateful to that group for how much they helped us. I was introduced to Gina because we had the shared experience of losing all of our multiples, and we were able to support each other through our grieving. And when she asked if I was interested in helping start a support group in the northern Kentucky area, I was ready to help right away. This is when she introduced me to Andrea, Kendra and Lisa and the support group developed. I hope that the Hearts support group can help others the way the group we attended helped me and my husband.
Hello, my name is Gina and I am one of the founders of HEARTS. My story starts back in May 2005 when my husband Dave and I lost our first son Austin. At 23 weeks and 4 days I went into premature labor and on May 6th 2005 I gave birth to our handsome son Austin. We left the hospital with no answers on what happened and why. We had never heard of something like this happening before and we felt so isolated and alone. I searched for local support groups and came up empty handed.
About six months later I discovered I was pregnant again and at our 10 week appointment we found out that there was no baby. Again, we were left heartbroken, confused and alone. After a year and a half of fertility problems we discovered in October of 2007 that I was pregnant with quadruplets! We were so excited and nervous yet had so much hope that this pregnancy was going to be the miracle we had been waiting for. At our 14 week appointment we discovered we were having four boys. We were so excited and named them immediately. Their names would be Gage, Drake, Cole and Gustin. At around 20 weeks I was admitted into the hospital for having contractions. I was on heavy medication and they were doing everything possible to keep me pregnant.
On February 28th 2008 at 22 weeks and 6 days, I woke up fully dilated and in labor. Things went a little crazy and the next thing I knew I woke up in the ICU about 14 hours later and no longer pregnant. They had to give me several units of blood and I had pulmonary edema. I spent another week in the hospital and then came home again to an empty, childless home. We had buried five children in the past three years and I had to do something.
I began praying everyday on what my purpose in life was. I had been given these situations and I knew that I could do something with it. I had been talking with Dave about the desire in my heart to start a support group for families that have lost a child but didn’t know where to start. I was driving down the street on my lunch break listening to a Christian radio station when the gentleman said, “Take what you have been given and make it your purpose”. That is when it hit me that GOD had been laying on my heart that there was a huge need in Northern Kentucky to start a support group and I just needed to start taking those steps and he would do the rest.
I began talking to others that had losses and after we had several dinners we decided that with a group of us working together, we could reach so many more people in need. Although I don’t like the circumstances that have brought us all together I thank GOD that I have met all of these wonderful women and we are all driven for the same purpose. To give that much needed support to families that have been touched by a loss. I do miss my boys greatly, but I thank GOD everyday for the time I did have with them and for crossing my paths with these amazing women so we can bring you HEARTS.