During tomorrow’s PANDA “Children Helping Children” Fashion Show, the audience will see many young girls and guys strutting their stuff for the PANDA Healthy Babies Project. What they might not know is that a couple of the children who will be modeling to raise money for neonatal care were actually premature babies themselves.
When Kennan, Liam and Brynley McAndrews were born nearly eight years ago, mom Ashley and dad Kevin did not have the easy experience most parents hope for.
After 19 weeks of bed rest, Ashley was quickly approaching her planned delivery date in her 34th week of pregnancy. During a routine checkup, the doctors noticed her blood pressure was through the roof and told her the babies needed to come out immediately.
Ashley and Kevin remained unbelievably calm at receiving this unexpected news but didn’t know what to expect during and after the delivery. Not realizing how the anesthetic would affect her, Ashley didn’t even realized the C-section had begun.
“It was definitely scary at that point and it’s not like they put your baby in your arms and you get to hold your baby,” Ashley says. “They showed them to me. I had read that if you can see them, you can be somewhat hopeful.”
Shortly after Kennan, the first baby, was born, Kevin heard the doctor say she wasn’t breathing. When Kevin went to see what was happening to his new baby girl, the doctor said very directly, “I can explain to you what’s going on or I can save your child’s life.”
“Neither of us expected that they wouldn’t be breathing on their own,” Kevin says. “I was expecting what you see on TV.”
Within just a few minutes, all three babies had been taken out of the room to be treated and checked for any other complications. “It goes from complete and utter chaos for for minutes, then it’s silence. You’re just like, ‘Wow, what just happened?’” remembers Ashley.
She healed very quickly, which she attributes to her strong desire to see the babies. The babies were in the hospital much longer: Kennan for 10 days, Liam for 12 and Brynley for 20. Each of them had different kinds of problems immediately following the birth — like jaundice, digestive issues and breathing troubles.
Once all three babies were home, Ashley and Kevin had to adjust to the fact that they had three new little people to take care of, which meant lots of organization to keep the system running smoothly. With each baby needing to eat every three hours, there were feedings going on every hour and a half, day and night.
Amongst all this chaos, in a very tiny house, Kevin still had to go to work. “I came home and I would kind of look at the door at 5:30 and say, ‘My day is just starting,’” Kevin says. One day he walked into the house to find Ashley hysterically, trying to balance all three babies in her arms, legs and whatever other way she could find.
Even though there were some challenges in the beginning, all five members of the family managed to make it through. “Now they’re doing great,” Ashley says. “They’re in first grade and despite their problems with fine motor skills or vision or whatever, they’re far above grade level.” They have all developed into very different personalities as well. Brynley is funny, outgoing and loves the spotlight; Kennan is sweet and understanding of things far beyond her years; Liam has a huge heart and a desire to help others.
Liam will not be in the fashion show but the girls are very excited. The show and luncheon take place from 10:30am-2pm Saturday at The Phoenician.
Learn more about PANDA. — Veronica Jones