Memory Lane

The following is something I've never posted about (except when the actual events unfolded). You'll probably want to have some tissues ready and if you've lost a child, I'd suggest skipping this post.

The room was dim as he entered. He did not delay in waking us as we lay in sleep room #4. Of course, we'd only been asleep for what seemed like seconds. The slightest sound jarred us from our sleep. I'll never forget the look in his eyes. The look of care, tenderness and sorrow. Deep, deep sorrow.

As he sat on the bed, taking my hand in his, he explained that he'd had a rough night with Pierce. Things were up and down, but now, now it seemed that his worst fear, our worst fear was true. The tiny baby we'd hoped would survive, would not be coming home.

The pleading doctor explained to us that in his 1lb 2oz body, our tiny son had more potassium than a grown man could survive. In all his years of experience, he'd never seen a child survive a potassium this high. The medical jargon did not register until he laid it out in terms we could understand, which we'd soon learn was one of his talents. He explained that potassium is used for criminal executions because it is deemed "certain death."

And then, his attention shifted to me. My heart was on the floor, somewhere between a nightmare and reality. He spoke to me with clarity and precision explaining that his job with Pierce was coming to an end. There was nothing more they could medically do to save his life. He went on to explain that in a short time, Pierce's heart would certainly fail due to the enormous amount of potassium. With tenderness he whispered out, "I never want a mother to not hold her child while they're alive. I want you to hold Pierce while he's still alive. And I think, I think the time is running out."

From there it's all a blur. I remember Dr. Kueser and Nik loading me into a wheelchair (I was 4 days post c-section) and then a sudden phone call to let Dr. K know that Pierce's heart rate had gone into an arrythmia. As we raced into the NICU, I remember the intense feeling of wanting to jump up and run to my baby. Not knowing if he would be alive when we went through those doors was excruciating. We didn't even scrub in.

We came in to see a swarm of people hovering over Pierce's bed. His tiny body lay there. Once they saw us coming, they silenced the monitors and stepped back. You could tell they had all determined the time had come. No more medical interventions could be justified. It was now time to grieve. To let Pierce die with dignity. To let him die in his mother's arms.

I remember waiting at his bedside for what seemed like hours (really only about 15 minutes), coaching myself and praying that God would forgive me for doing what seemed at the time like giving up. How would this tiny baby survive us holding him? (After all, we hadn't even touched him at this point.)

I remember Dr. Kueser standing beside us. Praying with us. Holding our hands and gently urging me to pick him up. He reminded me that's what Pierce needed most- to be held.

And so we did just that. We held him. We said our goodbyes. We took pictures and we mourned. As Dr. Kueser and Pierce's primary nurse, Jennifer left that day, we said goodbyes for the final time.

But of course, our story doesn't end there. Pierce's story doesn't end there. What we witnessed next was nothing short of a miracle. For the next 24+ hrs we watched as Pierce's potassium fell. His heart rate stayed stable. And he remained stable. By the following night, Pierce's potassium was back in the normal range. His kidneys were functioning again. His oxygen saturations had remained stable.

And the best part, there was absolutely no medical intervention that could be pointed to as life saving. Nothing.

For the remaining 113 days of Pierce's NICU stay, it wasn't always easy, but we remained hopeful, knowing that God had saved him from "certain death" on that day and that He was with us every step of the way.

Now, almost 2.5 years later, all that's left of that horrible day are scars, vague memories and a photo album hidden deeply away. And then there's a special bond. A bond with those who worked so diligently to save our boy. And a very, very special bond with those who were there to care for us when they could no longer care for Pierce.

Because Dr. Kueser was the doctor on call that dreaded day, because he was the one who gave me my first opportunity to hold Pierce and because he then went on (along with Dr. Engstrom, who we will have to save for a whole 'nother post!) to be Pierce's primary doctor for 15 out of the 18 weeks he was in the NICU...because of all of that and so much more, we have a very, very special bond with this man.We will never forget the ways in which God used him to save our once tiny, sick son.

Remember how I told you this Halloween was going to be big for us? Well, while the Uncle Si costume was fun, Halloween was really special because we had the opportunity to do this:

Special thanks to Pierce's Primary Nurses, Laura and Lindsay for making the badge

Introducing the younger version of Dr. K complete with gray hair

Meeting Dr. Kueser again

And here is a photo of the NICU neonatology dream team, Pierce's primary doctors. Without a doubt, my son is alive because God used their skill and intelligence to save him.

What a tremendous blessing it was to be able to stroll through the NICU, our healthy 2.5 year old in tow and listen as he called out in his cute little toddler voice "Dah-der KEY-zur!"

We are forever grateful to you, Dr. Kueser and Dr. Engstrom and to the many, many others who cared for our son during his sickest months.

The Franks Family


  1. Amazing - thank you for sharing this! Our son, Jax, also had a scary episode of extremely high potassium levels and heart arrhythmia. I will never forget that day. And I will never forget how lucky we were that he pulled through!

  2. How touching this is for me. I was a 24 weeker and like your son should of and except by God's grace would of died. I am 14 now. When I was almost two months old I developed a double infection and would of died had God not touched me. He saved me from certain death. My prayers are with you as you and your family raise your son. God bless. Ruth