Thanks to the Doctors That Saved My Daughters Life

I ordinarily don’t write much about my personal life in my newsletters. My job is to talk about business growth – and while there are plenty of parallels between what we do at work and what we do at home, I prefer to keep personal examples to a minimum because everyone’s experience is unique, and the specifics of what happen to me might not be relevant to you. But I’m making an exception this month. This is a personal story, and there’s nothing in this article that will help you build a better business. This is simply a thank you note to all of the people who got my daughter here alive.

I won’t go into every detail, but here’s a quick summary – when my wife was 8 weeks pregnant we discovered that our daughter was dealing with a pretty rare type of blood incompatibility. Basically, antibodies on my wife’s blood were attacking and destroying our daughter’s red blood cells before they could properly form. Blood incompatibility issues are somewhat common, but the type we were dealing with isn’t – only around 1,000 of them happen every year, out of several million births – and our local doctors had zero experience in dealing with it. The Internet quickly taught us that our daughter would die before she was born if we didn’t do anything to treat her and might die anyway, and that was exactly as fun to learn as you can probably imagine. It took us about two months to find people who knew what we were dealing with, which was a sobering experience.

But eventually the course of our pregnancy became clear – weekly ultrasounds to measure the speed of the blood flow into our daughter’s brain (which it’s a miracle you can see on an ultrasound, by the way), which would tell us whether or not she was becoming dangerously anemic. If she crossed a certain threshold, my wife would need to undergo a medical procedure to inject donated blood directly into the umbilical cord, and then repeat the procedure every 2-3 weeks until finally, hopefully delivering at 37 weeks – past that, the risk of our daughter staying in the womb was too great. But if any of those procedures failed, we would need to deliver earlier.

So my first thank you is to Dr. Radha Cherukuri, who performed the vast majority of our weekly ultrasounds to determine if and when we would need to look into transfusions. Not only did she keep us sane as we held our breath every week to see where things stood, but she also put us in touch with Dr. Ken Moise at the University of Texas Medical School, who has spent his career working with alloimmunized pregnancies and whose advice and counsel were invaluable. A special thank you as well to his assistant Ryann Wynn, who talked us off the ledge more than once as we bombarded her with questions about possible scenarios and how to best prepare ourselves for what might come. I’d also like to thank Dr. Daniel Wechter, who filled in for Dr. Cherukuri when she was away at a medical conference and who is a remarkable man in his own right – a former monk turned doctor who, along with his saint of a wife, have adopted or fostered over 30 children.

Eventually it became clear that transfusions were going to be necessary, and so my wife and I made regular 2-hour trips to Ann Arbor to meet with an army of specialists at the University of Michigan’s Children’s Hospital. Special thanks to Dr. Elizabeth Langen, who was the first doctor we met in person with extensive familiarity with our situation and how to handle it. Knowing that we would be in skilled hands was enormously relieving.   My wife eventually needed three transfusions, and I can’t even count all of the doctors, nurses, phlebotomists and technicians who helped us survive each of those – but the biggest thanks of all goes to Dr. Marcie Treadwell, who performed each transfusion flawlessly and with an exceptional understanding of how psychologically exhausting the experience was for both my wife and me. I don’t think I’ve ever been as comprehensively impressed by a doctor’s skill and compassion as I am with her.

Next on the list, and a close second to Dr. Treadwell, is Dr. Brian Tesler, who came into our lives around week 27 as my wife’s new OB when we transferred care to a hospital with admitting privileges at our regional NICU. He talked us through the delivery, rearranged his schedule to make sure we could see him as often as we needed to, and advocated for my wife to have the option to try for an induced delivery and avoid the recovery of a C-section, which we hadn’t even known was possible until about three weeks before it happened. He and his team were patient, empathetic, crazy responsive, eager to help us make the best of a bad situation, and willing to do what was best for us rather than what was easiest for them, which is not always the way things work.

We knew our daughter would need to spend some time in the NICU, and so I’d also like to Dr. Nwankwo Martin and Dr. Serge Thurin, who counseled us on what to expect during our stay there and who directed her care for the 8 days she spent there. I’d also like to thank Cassie, Amber (I’m sorry I don’t know your last names!) and the dozen or so other NICU nurses who cared for our daughter during her stay. Having a child in the NICU is very stressful, and the entire team at Covenant made it as easy as we could have hoped.

And last, but absolutely not least, I need to thank my wife for being so unbelievably strong during this entire process. This was a grueling pregnancy – entirely stressful, entirely devoid of the joy and excitement we had both experienced with our son’s pregnancy and were expecting to have again with our daughter – and it was capped off by an equally grueling 54-hour labor (yes, that is the right number). We both had several moments when we were not certain our daughter was going to make it here. And while my wife had low moments and occasionally questioned whether or not she could keep going, she handled all of it with more grace and poise than I thought was humanly possible. I have never been more impressed by anyone in my life than I was watching my wife give birth to our daughter, and I expect that opinion is going to stand for the rest of my days.

So thank you, to those I’ve mentioned and to the many nurses and doctors whose names I have forgotten or never learned. This note is a poor reward for the gift you’ve given me, but it’s the only thing I have to offer. That, and promising to raise my daughter the best way I know how, although full disclosure – I was planning to do that anyway.

Thank you, all of you. My little girl is here because of you, and nothing I can say here will come anywhere close to conveying the full depth of my gratitude. But here’s a picture. She will hate this when she is older, but she looks almost exactly like her brother.

68 Comments

  1. I teared up reading this. Love and good wishes to you, to your family, and to all the folks who helped you along the way. My kiddos also spent time in the NICU (all 3 were early / preemie) and I’m so happy to hear that you had such a supportive experience. Welcome to the world, baby!

    • Thanks for the well wishes, Monica! And so sorry you had to spend any time in the NICU – and three times at that! The doctors and nurses there make it about as good as that place can be, but it’s still a lot of stress when all you want is to take your child home. I hope your kids remember you this weekend! If they don’t do something nice, let me know where they live and I’ll talk some sense into them. 🙂

  2. Oh, Jeff! What an amazing testimony you shared with us. May God continue to bless our medical communities with grace, compassion, and the knowledge to save lives. And may you and your family be blessed by God with the beautiful gift that is your sweet daughter.

  3. Congratulations Jeff. Saw you speak at the Atlas Forum a few years back and have been following the newsletter since. Your story brought tears to my eyes and I am thankful that everything went ok. I hope mother and baby are doing well.

    • Thanks, Scot! Mom and daughter are doing pretty good – we still have some medical follow-ups to do, but nothing quite as harrowing as the pregnancy was. And I remember Atlas! You either have great taste in still paying attention to me, or you need a better hobby. 🙂

  4. Jeff…thank you for sharing this heartwarming story. I lost a baby at 24 weeks and it was one of the most awful experiences of my life. I had a very supportive family to help me through the ordeal but without a trained and sympathetic medical staff I probably wouldn’t be sending you this email. Giving birth is an amazing experience, being pregnant can be too but when complications arise it’s comforting to have people who know what they’re doing and gladly do it, even in the middle of the night after being awakened to take care of an emergency. I’m so glad you have a beautiful daughter and a healthy son to carry on your and your wife’s legacy. Your wife needs to be nominated for sainthood for 54 hours (I can’t even begin to image that) of labor. Congratulations to the Havens Family!

    • Thanks for the well wishes, Joan, and so very sorry for your loss. I spent several months wondering if my daughter was going to get here, and while that doesn’t at all compare to what you’ve been through, I have a small idea of how painful that must have been. I’m glad you found the right medical care to help you through all that, and I hope that life has treated you well since then. Let me know if there’s any way I can be helpful.

  5. The most beautiful piece you have ever written….and congrats to your growing family…..It was so heartwarming to read about such caring and compassionate people who responded to your every need.

  6. What a touching story. It is so nice that you have the resources to thank the team that worked with you. So often the thanks go unsaid or unheard. It was wonderful to read the success story of your wife and daughter. God Bless You and your wonderful family.

  7. Wow – what a story and I LOVE a happy ending! Congratulations to your family and I join you in your shout-out to the Medical Professionals who assisted you along the way. NICU nurses and doctors and all of those who devote their lives and careers to saving our tiniest and most fragile new humans are the closest we have to angels on earth!

    • Thanks, Vickie! And I agree. It’s actually made me wonder if there’s anything I can do in the medical world someday to pay them back for what they’ve done for me.

  8. What a miraculous journey! And what an amazing team (of angels!) you had surrounding your daughter. She’s absolutely precious, congratulations!

  9. Thank you for sharing your experience, wow, this was emotional and heartfelt! All the best to your beautiful family.

  10. Jeff, thanks for sharing this story. Both terrifying and inspiring at the same time, and wonderful to hear that your little girl is here safe and sound. I’m sure you have the happiest big brother around as well! Best wishes for continued health and happiness.

    • Thanks, Ted! Fortunately our son likes his sister, and she has coincidentally come with several toys that has made him even happier. We’ll see how much he loves her once she starts playing with his things. 🙂

  11. You are so sweet to share with us your experience. Life is about connections, and while, as you pointed out, we don’t all have the exact same experiences, we can all learn from each other’s journey. Congratulations to you and your wife on the birth of your daughter. What a precious gift from God.

  12. Congratulations on your baby girl! She is your family’s miracle and may God bless your newly expanded family. It is wonderful that you have taken time to clearly and specifically thank the many medical professionals who surrounded and cared for your family during this time. May your daughter be a joy and wrap you around her little finger!

  13. Good read, Jeff! So gratifying to hear of all the support you received from a multitude of sources. I’d be grateful, too. Glad it all worked out.

    Winston Chuchill said, “All babies look like me. But then, I look like all babies.”

    While I normally agree with him, I can’t in this case! You and your wife made an exceptionally pretty baby! Looks nothing like him. Congratulations to you both.

    • Thanks, Jackson! And yes, I happen to agree that she managed to look a bit better than Winston Churchill. Although when she is crying, the resemblance is unfortunately striking. 🙂

  14. Jeff,What a beautiful piece!You got such a good heart to be thankful to the medical team.I pray that your daughter grow in stature and favour with God and man

  15. Congratulations on your beautiful baby girl! Your story was so moving that I found myself crying as I read it. I was happy to know from the beginning that she survived. My daughter just delivered a beautiful baby boy and is healthy. In the very beginning they also found some issue with him but with the technology that is available today we found out at 20 weeks that he would be just fine. Thank you for sharing your story and for sharing all the good that doctors and nurses do on a daily basis. It sounds like you were in good hands and that God was right there with you all the time. Enjoy that beautiful little girl as I know you will. Congratulations to you and your wife!!! She sounds like she was a trooper through this whole ordeal and you were her best supporter. God bless you all!!

    • Thanks, Kathleen, and glad to hear that your daughter has a healthy son now! It’s no fun at all to wonder if things are going to be OK, but it definitely is amazing what they can do with technology these days. This would have been very different 100 years ago. So glad she is here!

  16. May you and yours remain richly blessed. I had a close friend who just endured much of this same scenario. They too were surrounded by prayer and positive thoughts ALL the way through. Thank you for sharing your story. Congratulations to you and your little family.

  17. A happy ending and joyous beginning for a little girl that is already showing her strength and tenacity! Surprise – There are business lessons in your story. Each person who helped you along the way knew their purpose and delivered it with a focus, passion for making a difference and an above-and-beyond attitude that put you and your wife and your yet-to-be-born first. They created a roadmap for your experience and constantly communicated with you so you knew where you were on your overall journey and what to expect. And they measured their success as your success–that little bundle of joy in your arms with a life of yet-to-be-discovered potential to be unleashed. Business after all is not just about product or services, it is also about people and the connections we make. This story’s happy ending made my day. Blessing to you and your beautiful family!

  18. This was the icing on the cake for this day. I started reading the story earlier and returned to finish and am so glad that I did so today! Congratulations on your beautiful blessing hand delivered from above. The medical staff and support team were heaven sent and due the praise for demonstrating real team spirit in accomplishing the goal of safe delivery for that gorgeous baby girl. May your family be ever changed for the good through this experience. Thank you for sharing such a personal yet heart warming portion of your life with us. This piece should be published for families, medical field and all humanity to see and know that we still have good in this land. God bless you and Happy Mother’s Day to your wife. Job well done.

  19. Jeff, this is my favorite blog post you’ve written. So grateful to learn of this story and the many people that made it possible. So grateful to hear all is well with Mom and baby. Beautiful. I do disagree that this isn’t a business post – only because everything you outlined proves that business, customer service, leadership, knowing our own Signature Moves (such as those doctors specializing in such particular fields), actually results in life-changing moments for families like yours. Happy for you, so excited to meet the family someday!

    • Thanks, Jason! How’s life treating you? It’s been a whirlwind over here for the past 7 months but I’m looking forward to things getting back to normal. No more kids for me, so this phase is ending and a new one is beginning. Looking forward to it!

  20. Congratulations to you, your wife and your families!
    And big props to your care team.
    Your daughter’s beautiful!
    Best wishes to all.

  21. She is absolutely beautiful! Congratulations to your family and all the medical experts who helped it happen! ..and thank you for sharing this letter. It’s just what I needed to start my day! A good cry!

  22. To the newly expanded Havens Family,
    Truly amazing story and how there was a bigger hand in this to help keep you guys on track and the medical professionals just so supportive and part of your daily lives – you are truly blessed!! She is so precious!! Congratulations!!!!

  23. What an amazing story, Jeff! Thanks for sharing. Thank you also for your choice of life. It would have been so easy to give up at any stage of that journey and abort the pregnancy. Instead, you and your wife chose to let a miracle happen. Talented doctors, nurses and other medical specialists did amazing things to help your baby daughter live. And all of that happened because of your “yes”.

    Your daughter is beautiful!

  24. Awesome recap and a story that your daughter will have to appreciate as she grows older and realizes the lengths we parents will go through for our children. I especially identify with the paragraph on your wife. I share a very similar awe and respect for my own wife. I could never have done what she has done, or go through what she has gone through (4 times!). Simply amazing. I appreciate you sharing. Thank you.

  25. I cannot BELIEVE this story my friend. So glad you shared it. And SOOOOO glad your baby girl made it into this world. Heart strings!! and how cool of you to give such praised gratitude to all your docs. I’m so proud of you and Laura both – as I could not even imagine what you must have gone through. So scary. And so intense. And sooo much to add to your plate with all the doc visits and constant worry. And poor Laura – 54 hours of labor…. your girl needs a shiny new diamond =) The pic of Laura and your beautiful baby girl is absolutely precious. Sending you all big hugs. And congratulations to you, Jeff, and to your entire family!! Cannot wait to see more photos and already excited for your Christmas newsletter =) xo

    • Thanks, Sarah! It sucked, but she’s here, and that’s all that matters. How’s your little girl? Is she driving yet? And what about you? We haven’t talked for a while, I don’t even know where the world has taken you since the last time I was in KC. We need to catch up!!!

  26. I look forward to reading your articles, and I’m glad you took this opportunity to share about this experience. Clearly, this was foremost in your mind, and it’s awesome that you can provide a public shout-out to those caregivers who helped you!! All the best to you and your family!

    • Thanks, Karen! It’s the least all those people deserve for what they did, and I figured I could take a short break from talking about business. 🙂 Hope you have a wonderful month!

  27. Congratulations to you and your wife. Your daughter is beautiful! Thank you for sharing your story with us. May God continue to bless your growing family.

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