It wasn’t Thanksgiving yet, but it was, nonetheless, a feast of thanks. The grateful parents of nine premature babies—born at just over two pounds, and still now no bigger than large baby dolls -returned to JW House November 15 to provide, serve, and share a turkey dinner with the current guests of the respite house, located on the campus of Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara Medical Center.
In gratitude for the succor they themselves had received while their babies were in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at KP Santa Clara, the families had reunited to offer food and, even more nourishing, to offer hope to other parents.
“It’s never happened before to have so many babies together for a reunion,” says April Bignell, JW House manager. Their stories touch the heart.
Santa Clara residents Sarah and Alex Guiang were day guests at JW House during the 13 weeks their baby, Sophie-Alirah, was in the NICU.
“I would spend time with my daughter then come here to rejuvenate. Everyday I’d be greeted by volunteers who offered positive energy,” says Sarah Guiang. “They brought my hopes straight up and allowed me to go back to my daughter renewed. At home there was no one to lift me up.”
Also day guests, Marisa Hanson was 43 when she and her husband, Bradley, had their baby, Hunter Luke.
“I had tried for five years to get pregnant, so he’s our little miracle,” says Marisa Hanson, a San Jose resident. “It was more than his being [three months] premature. Hunter Luke had to have heart surgery and was in hospitals 111 days. We didn’t know if he was going to live or die.
“I’d come here and cry. The NICU families would all come together and support each other. We’d sit down and have a meal and cry on each other’s shoulders. A lot of our babies, we didn’t know if they were going to make it.”
Since 2008, JW House (www.jwhouse.org) has been a home away from home for the families of children receiving medical treatment. It is a real home where they can spend a quiet hour in the garden, drop in for a snack, nap on a couch, stay overnight in a private room at token cost, and even be nourished by a home-cooked turkey dinner served with love and empathy.
“It always warms my heart when families come back. To have been a part of the journey of these families when their babies were in the NICU and to see them all now, brings me such joy and hope,” says Bignell.