Today I want to share with you a beautiful tribute to a special baby boy. We never met Kai, nor have we met his family yet, but we heard about him when Addison was in the ICU. Kai was the first infant to be on ECMO (the heart-lung bypass machine) at BC Children’s Hospital just a few months before Addison arrived. He needed a new heart too, but sadly his miracle didn’t come in time. Kai lived just two weeks. In that short time, he touched so many hearts and continues to do so.
Kai’s mom Steffanie heard about this blog and sent me a beautiful message. She shared with me a speech her friend wrote for Kai’s memorial. It was so moving I asked her if I could in turn share it with Addison’s circle of friends and family. I am honoured to have the privilege of posting this wonderful testament of love and hope…in memory of baby Kai.
Please take 10 minutes out of your day and read this.
Elaine, Aaron and Addison
I had the honour and privilege of being with little Kai and his parents on the day he took his first breath and the day he took his last breath, and most of the days in between. His time was so short here with us, but I wanted to share some things that I learned from Kai in each precious day that he touched hearts all over the world.
I was reminded that we love our children from the moment we learn that we are expecting. Chris and Steff were excited to find out that they were adding a third child to their family and the joy continued to build as the pregnancy went along. On September 28th a cardiac echo confirmed that their baby had a heart abnormality. I will never forget the phone call when I answered and Steff said to me, “Cindy,we are having a very special baby,” and we wept for this precious little one who already had his family and friends by the heartstrings. Kai was going to be born with pulmonary atresia and Chris and Steff began their regular visits to BC Women’s and Children’s hospital to meet with doctors, nurses, and support people to learn about the plan to take care of their little babe.
I learned patience. From the first contraction that Steff felt Tuesday morning, January 4th to Kai’s much awaited arrival on Saturday, January 8th, he taught me that the most important things in life are worth waiting for and that all the details will figure themselves out eventually.
I learned that a baby’s cry is the most precious sound in the world when Kai gave a strong cry and a kick upon his arrival. I was reminded to appreciate my children and be thankful for them even when they cry or whine, because Kai taught me that the true absence of that, is devastating.
Chris and Steff did not know if they would be able to hold Kai when he was first born because the doctors didn’t know how his pulmonary atresia would affect him, but I learned that there is strength and healing in human touch as Kai was handed to his Mom immediately and his Dad was able to give him a hug and a kiss before the doctors looked after him. This lesson continues on as family and friends hug and hold Chris, Steffanie, Siena and Anders in an attempt to help carry the burden and let them know that Kai has touched all of our lives and we grieve deeply with them.
I learned that a Mohawk can be the most stylish hair do in the world when a nurse named C did little Kai’s hair one morning. When Chris and Steff walked into the room the doctor said “C did his hair this morning.” Their sweet little Kai had been given the most precious hair do in the world.
I learned that people are stronger than they realize as I stood beside Kai’s Mom and Dad every day and watched them do their best for Kai. They kept moving and functioning and doing what they needed to every day even though it was so hard. They never quit, and they did absolutely everything that Kai needed from them, even when it required strength beyond their human capacity.
I know now that there are angels among us. All of us have a different idea about angels and I know personally that Kai rests in Jesus arms with a host of heavenly angels around him: but there are also angels among us. These angels are in the form of all the people who took extra care to make sure that Kai was given the best. There is an angel named K, a nurse who brightened Kai’s room, another named J who just knew confidently how to best take care of Kai. There is a doctor named S, who has the gentle kind manner of someone who cares and another doctor named A who gently took care of Kai and his family in the last precious hours that Kai was with us here. There is an angel named L who was a quiet presence praying and supporting the family. There were many others whose names I don’t know but I know that when Chris and Steff slept, they did so knowing that Kai was being looked after by angels. There were also angels all over the world praying for Kai, sending good wishes and thoughts and people willing to do anything to help in any way they could.
I know now that you are never too young to do arts and crafts. Nurse K had taken the pictures that Chris and Steff put up in Kai’s room and framed them with blue paper. When I saw her that day she said “I did arts and crafts with Kai last night.” I am so glad that she did, as arts and crafts are a big part of Siena and Anders lives and their baby brother Kai got to participate.
I learned about compassion as I sat in the pediatric intensive care unit’s waiting room. Parents who are carrying the heaviest loads took the time to ask why I was there and they were concerned for Kai and his family even as they walked a similar journey. Each day I was there, the now familiar faces would ask, “How is baby Kai doing.” My prayers that enveloped Kai every moment expanded to include S, J, J and their families who knew better than I, the preciousness of little Kai’s life.
I learned that knowledge gives us confidence and we need to expand what we know. Chris and Steff spent their days learning what every cord, machine and number meant to little Kai’s life. I already know that Chris has a brilliant mind, and I was encouraged to see him glean information and discover the details. He wanted to know what every number meant and all about the intricacies of the human heart so that he was soon actively participating in taking care of Kai along with all the professionals. Never have numbers and machines been so important.
Kai taught my Sunday school lesson for me this month. We are learning about determination in the month of January and our memory verse is “Let us run with perseverance the race that God has set before us.” Hebrews 12:1. Kai ran his race with determination. He was strong and held in there. When he knew his race was near the end he opened his eyes and looked back and forth between his Mom and his Dad, he held onto their fingers and enjoyed having them hug and kiss him. He passed on his determination to all of us. When a day is hard and difficult know that you can find strength and that you can do it.
I learned that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Kai had little teddy bears in his bed. These bears weren’t just there to keep Kai company, they also had jobs to do. They held Kai’s tubes in the right place or helped Kai to be held in different positions. These little bears, that were given to him by the hospital, were each a different colour and had a different month printed on their foot. The first bear that Kai had was not a January bear so a nurse decided that Kai should have a little January bear for his birth month. When she arrived with the bear she said, “This is the January bear but the colour is not the nicest.” Steff said to me that the colour of this little red bear is so representative of Kai’s life. His very survival depended on that beautiful colour moving through his veins and pumping through his little red heart. Steff said that she would always treasure that little bear because it is beautiful to her. Each of these bears was a gift from Children’s Hospital and I know that Chris and Steff find strength, love and peace in the donations that keep pouring in on Kai’s tribute wall. Thanks for honouring Kai’s memory this way and thank you for supporting other children who have a journey similar to Kai’s.
I now know the importance of registering as an organ donor. You may have done that already, but people can’t really understand the significance of what that means until someone you love is put on a transplant list. When Kai’s first surgery was unsuccessful he needed to be put on a heart bypass machine. They attempted to take him off the machine but it was evident that little Kai’s heart was not going to start to beat at this time. The hope that there could be a heart that would help Kai live was an amazing hope. Kai’s window of opportunity was very short and it became evident that his body could no longer wait. Little Kai and his family have a request, please register as an organ donor.
There is a song that I listened to a lot over the past few weeks and one of the lines in that song is “I’ve seen hope that doesn’t ever end even when the sky is falling.” I witnessed exactly that hope as the doctors talked to Chris and Steff about how little Kai’s body was starting to decline from the effects of being on the bypass machine over time. If Kai’s heart was going to start beating this would be his last opportunity. I saw the hope, and held the hope, that little Kai’s heart would beat strong on it’s own. It did not. I learned that even when we knew that Kai’s little heart was not going to beat on its own there was still hope. A hope that Kai’s life means something, that he has made a difference. I know that this prayer has been answered because Kai’s life means so much to so many of us all around the world and each of us is better for having known Kai.
Kai reminds us all that death is a part of life. That if we didn’t have this grief and emptiness then that would mean that we didn’t have Kai and not one of us would go back. Kai died surrounded by love and peace. His Grandpa Maurice had the opportunity to baptize him and a blessing was prayed over Kai. While soft lullabies played in the background the machines and beeps and monitors were all quieted. Chris said that it was so nice to have this quiet time without the numbers and the noises. Kai spent his last hours cradled in his mother’s arms. His Daddy held his head and both parents were able to give kisses and cuddles, touches and hugs while rocking and holding every precious moment so that it could last forever. Kai wrapped his little hand around his Mom and Dad’s fingers and they cherished being together. Grandparents and close friends were given the special gift of kissing and hugging sweet Kai as we said our goodbyes.
Chris and Steff know that they will cry a lot more, and that they will never forget, but they want each of us, to let them know, that we remember Kai, that we love Kai and that each of us carry Kai in our hearts and in our memories forever.
Kai is a miracle and he taught me that I have not been as aware as I need to be, and as thankful as I should be for each miracle that surrounds me. My children are miracles. Your children are miracles and I can only conclude that each of us is a miracle. We are here for a reason and we need to be thankful for our lives and live them to the fullest, hopefully impacting people positively as we go along.