The cries of my seven-month-old son, Keller, awakened me in the early morning hours just after my 40th birthday. My husband, Reggie, and I attempted to comfort him, but he would not stop crying. Around 7:00 a.m. that day, June 12, 2011, we took him to the St. Luke’s Emergency Center near our home in The Woodlands. I knew something was wrong, and by the time we arrived at St. Luke’s, his lips had turned blue.
After assessing Keller, the Emergency Center staff promptly arranged for his transfer to Texas Children’s Hospital Texas Medical Center Campus via the Kangaroo Crew — a specialized transport service for critically ill babies and children. I rode with him on what seemed like the longest and scariest 40-mile trip ever. Knowing that my son needed the expert care Texas Children’s provides to the sickest children was frightening to me, but the comfort of the Kangaroo Crew staff encouraged me so much that I sang to my sweet baby boy along the way.
The medical staff at Texas Children’s intubated Keller shortly after we arrived at the hospital. The examining physician diagnosed him with asthma, a collapsed lung and double pneumonia. The news shocked Reggie and me, because Keller had seemed perfectly healthy the day before and had no prior health issues.
Unfortunately, the news got worse. The oral steroids Keller needed could not be administered for another 48 hours — after he had passed the 21-day surveillance period from the possible time of his exposure to chickenpox at his daycare. We waited, and as the clock ticked, Keller’s health declined. The next day, one of the critical care specialists gently said, “Keller is the sickest child in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) right now, and we are preparing for his other organs to start shutting down.”
Nothing prepares a parent to hear that your son may die. We wailed. Then, we dropped to our knees and prayed. The hospital staff comforted us again in that awful moment when hope seemed dim.
“I vigilantly prayed and read the Bible out loud to Keller all night,” Reggie said. “Family and friends also prayed.”
On June 14, Keller was able to receive oral steroids. His body responded well to the medication, and he showed signs of improvement a little each day. We watched a miracle take place as health returned to his small body. What a precious gift it was for my husband to finally hold our son again on June 19 — Father’s Day.
Keller remained in the PICU for one more week. I never left the hospital and was grateful for access to the on-site Ronald McDonald House, where we could eat meals, take showers and lie down in a bed. The greeting cards created by family and friends through the hospital’s online greeting card program also brought us comfort and encouragement during this tough time.
From our first interaction with the Kangaroo Crew, we knew Keller was in good hands — and so were we. An entire team of family-centered pediatric specialists came together to consistently provide compassionate, high-quality care. They let us listen in on rounds, ask lots of questions and advocate for our son.
“The staff was so kind and personable. It felt like a bunch of friends were with us, watching over our child.” – Reggie Gray
Today, Keller is a healthy 6-year-old boy. He still has asthma and is on a daily treatment regimen, but he has never had to go back to Texas Children’s for critical care. Perhaps because of the wonderful doctors he has interacted with his entire life, he wants to be a doctor someday.
Reggie and I are so thankful for Texas Children’s. Knowing that the same level of pediatric care we received at the hospital’s Main Campus in the Texas Medical Center is now available to us much closer to home at Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands gives us such peace of mind. Our experience with Keller strengthened not only our faith, but also our devotion to Texas Children’s. We now serve as members of Ambassadors to tell others about this wonderful place where miracles happen and to raise awareness and funding that will help Texas Children’s continue providing the best care to all children in need.