Mason – Our Lionheart

Mason is to be featured at the upcoming Playing For Preemies Night between Lewis Men’s Volleyball and Penn State on January 18th at Lewis University


Brian and I have always believed things happen for a reason, and let me tell you, the last few months have shown us things REALLY do happen for a reason, whether we would like them to or not.

February 2019 was the start of a crazy ride for us.  At the time we were living in Oxford OH and just came back from a recruiting weekend in the Chicago area.  Brian had a phone interview for the head coaching position at Davenport University in Grand Rapids MI. This could be a chance for us to move back home after being away for 7 years of living in Tennessee and Ohio!  We were excited about the possibility!

After the initial phone interview, I wasn’t feel the greatest.  We had just recently decided to start trying to have a family, and low and behold, we were 7 weeks pregnant.  Is this really happening? Brian just had a phone interview at a school back home and we find out we are pregnant?!  Are the stars aligning?

The end of March Brian was offered and he accepted the head coaching position back home.  Brian moves back to West Michigan in April while I’m still in Ohio getting the house ready to sell.  By the end of May, I was moved back to West Michigan as well. Pregnancy so far has been boring, which is GREAT!

After a long spring and summer looking for homes, running camps, living with our family, we move into our house in Grand Rapids on August 1st!  We are cutting things close with timing of season starting and me starting my new position at a local middle school.  On the night of August 5th, I was feeling sick and just not like myself at all.  I was up every 30 minutes feeling ill and making trips to the restroom.  At 2:30AM, we are convinced to call the OBGYN emergency hotline. The doctor could not pinpoint what was really going on.  We were given two options: Come to the ER right away or wait until my doctor was in around 7am.

We decided something wasn’t right and we needed to go in.  As we arrive downtown Grand Rapids to the ER, they get us into a room and take my blood pressure.  The nurse asked multiple times if I had high blood pressure during pregnancy or did I have high blood pressure run in the family?  The answer was no. It had been low all pregnancy and never any issues with family. My readings came back at 211/105 and I was immediately admitted to the hospital.  I was diagnosed with Preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome. Everything was in warp speed at this point. Blood pressure medications injected, magnesium to help protect my brain, fluids, cords and machines everywhere.  My blood pressure wasn’t dropping fast enough, so more meds were distributed. As they starting putting the higher doses into my IV, they noticed that Mason’s blood pressure was dropping too rapidly.

Our doctor showed up around 7:30am with a look on her face of true concern.  Her words were “He needs to come soon, so I am going to change.” Brian and I looked at each other in a bit of shock, “like soon being now?!”  Within a matter of minutes of our doctor walking out, 3 nurses rushed in to get me prepared for the OR. At 29 weeks and 7:47am August 6th 2019, we welcomed our 2lb 10oz 14.5 inch baby boy to the world.

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Within 20 minutes of delivery via emergency c-section, Mason was moved to the NICU at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital where he would stay for 74 days.  Within 24 hours, Mason was moved from a ventilator to a CPAP machine which he would use for over a month. He was diagnosed with chronic lung illness and we prayed that his lungs would continue to mature and strengthen.  We had issues with him wanting to eat, especially food with HMF. These struggles would be ongoing for our next 65 days or so in the NICU. I stayed in the hospital the next 5 days as they tried to get my blood pressure under wraps.  Brian did all he could to be there for both of us as he would walk back and forth from my room to Mason’s room in the NICU.

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August 13th was the start of pre-season for Brian and with that came 2-a-day practices.  We would be up at 4:00am, to the hospital in the AM, would do everything we could to get there midday and then back up in the evenings to spend time our little miracle.  These days were full of ups and downs. The first sight and sound of a Brady alarm going off is something I will not soon forget. The alarms continued to grow. Those never got easier for us.  The watching of the monitor, watching MJ on the outside of incubator, reading as many books as we could became commonplace. Every morning and every night and as many midday visits as we could make happen.  The road-trip weekends that Brian needed to be with his team were incredibly tough for both of us. The nurses that would end up being our “angels in human form” were godsends throughout our time in the NICU, but especially true on those weekends that Brian would be away.

By October, Mason was out of his incubator and into a bassinet in his NICU room.  He was making positive strides in all categories but his feedings, as the HMF (Human Milk Fortifier) was becoming such an issue that after his feedings he was miserable or even worse, he refused to eat when were able to try to give him a bottle.  One of our primary nurses was a huge advocate of Mason and got the O.K. to try feeding him straight formula. The trick worked! She then tried a bottle of straight breast milk. This also worked! Mason started taking to his feedings in a much more positive way!

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On Thursday October 17th, Brian was heading to campus to leave with his team for a tournament.  He called to check-in with our nurse and to see how Mason was doing. The nurse begins the call with “Are you ready for this?” to which Brian’s stomach dropped.  His thoughts were “What now?!” She proceeded to tell Brian “Mason is going home on Saturday!” Brian was overwhelmed to the point he needed to pull his car over!  Two days later on October 19th, Mason arrived home.  A day after his due date.

Our little “lionheart” has taught us so much in these 5 months on earth.  To be patient, to believe in something greater, to stay positive. These lessons carry on in all that we do in life.  We are blessed beyond belief with the support we have received from family, friends and the support team at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.  We are also humbled and appreciative by the opportunity to share Mason’s story thru the Rae Strong Foundation.

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