Patricia and Mark Sweigart faced the one thing parents never hope to face: losing their child. Their infant daughter died 18 days after her birth.
While the grief was overwhelming for the first- time parents, Patricia said they wanted to turn their tragedy into a mission of kindness. The couple created Josie’s Impact cards and did nice things for the people that helped them during Josie’s 18 days of life.
“Eighteen days doesn’t sound like a lot. She just wasn’t this dying baby that was lying in an incubator. It was 18 days of our lives that we stayed praying with her.”
Patricia said they heard about another couple that lost a child doing good deeds for others on the anniversary of the child’s death and decided to do something similar.
The cards have a picture of Josie on one side and the other side tells a bit of the Sweigart’s story and instructions to do a good deed. When people did a good deed, they would leave a Josie’s Impact card behind to remind others to pay it forward. They did this for 18 days to represent the number of days Josie impacted their lives.
For the 18-day mission, the Sweigarts did something nice for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit staff where Josie was born, took food the NICU parent’s lounge and they even dropped off cupcakes to our staff at The Milk Bank.
“Throughout the year, I didn’t understand why it was 18 days. I was able to feel what a parent’s love was. She was our only child. She was meant to help hundreds of people. It was a bigger picture than just my family. It wasn’t just to teach me a lesson to trust in God more, it was to help other people open their eyes. It makes you think that you never know what’s going on.”
The couple started their mission on March 18, Josie’s birthday and since then, they have seen the cards go to 15 states, the United Kingdom and it is still going!
Patricia said they wanted to include The Milk Bank in their 18 days because Josie received donor milk and Patricia became a bereavement donor.
When mom’s own milk is not available, research shows that donor milk is the next best thing, especially for premature infants like Josie.
Josie was born at 28 weeks and Patricia said they knew she might have challenges being born prematurely, but things took a turn for the worst a lot faster than they expected.
“I got diagnosed with preeclampsia at 25 weeks. I was admitted (to the hospital) at 27 weeks and at 28 weeks they (doctors) had to do an emergency C-section,” Patricia said. “Her survival rate was 90 percent. We knew there would be bumps in the road, but we didn’t think she wouldn’t survive.”
By the two-week mark of Josie’s life, things started to look bleak as she was showing signs of infection, but there were some signs of hope.
“…They told us she had a 50 percent chance of making it through the night. She made it through the night and all her numbers started to look better. When I left the hospital Monday night, the doctor said she was fine.”
However, that hope was fleeting and things quickly worsened.
“We got a phone call at 5:21 the next day that she had coded. We rushed to the hospital, we saw them doing the chest compressions and counting. Her time of death ended up being 6:30. They are pretty sure it was probably pneumonia.”
While the loss of their daughter will forever linger in their hearts, the Sweigerts are thrilled to be welcoming a baby boy soon. At the time we spoke with her, Patricia was 29 weeks and doing fine.
“We’re definitely going to do something next year,” she said of doing another mission of kindness.
*Update* Patricia and Mark are the proud parents of a healthy baby boy. Mom is doing great.*