The Kranendonks: A Forever Family

Last November, I got an amazing opportunity to photograph this sweet family from Utah. They came to me with a specific request, to create a photo that included their entire family, something they hadn't been able to do before.

Here is Trisha's incredible story. I am so thankful for her and her willingness to share it with us. My hope is that someone going through something similar may be able to take comfort in her words.

"We are the Kranendonk family. We have three wonderful girls, Brynlee, Brooklyn, Emery and were extremely blessed last August (2015) with our first little boy Maverick Nathaniel Kranendonk. Maverick was perfect and the sweetest baby ever! The first two and a half months zoomed by. His smile would light up a room and he brought us so much joy. I looked forward to night time because I got to spend my one on one time with my little buddy.  There was something so special about him and we all were and still are head over heels in love with him. Everything in our life seemed to be going good, and we really had nothing to complain about.

That all changed on October 25, 2015. It was a normal Sunday and we came back from church. I laid him down for a nap and a couple hours later he woke up. We hung out for a bit, then Nate took Maverick down in our basement while he put together a ping pong table. The girls went down to play with their toys and Maverick was in his bouncer sitting next to Nate. Little did Nate know that would be his last time getting to spend time with his son and having Maverick taking mental notes!

Maverick started getting a little fussy so I went downstairs to get him so he could have his other nap. I swaddled him, gave him a kiss, and laid him down. How I wish I would have known that would be my last time of doing this and other things like changing his diaper, talking to him with him responding back, swaddling him, getting to hold him without cords attached, seeing his big smile, and being alert. I wish I knew that would be my last time giving him a kiss on his soft, warm cheek.

I laid Maverick down for his nap then my parents came over for Sunday dinner. We were talking and I thought I heard Maverick making small sounds babies usually make when they first wake up but wasn't sure because it was so quiet. I thought I would give him a couple more minutes to wake up. (Nobody else heard him.) After a few minutes I had a strong thought I better go check on him. I went in my room and he was turned over on his stomach. I said his name and he didn’t respond. I rushed over panicked, picked him up and he was gray and purple in color. He looked lifeless. I yelled out “call 911, Maverick is dead.” My dad called 911 and I rushed into the family room with him. I took my dad's phone and was shaking, all I could say in the phone to the operator was my son isn't breathing and he looks dead. The dispatcher kept asking for my address and miraculously I was able to blurt it out. The operator was explaining what to do and I just dropped the phone in complete shock. Nate gave him a quick blessing, dropped to his knees, and began to cry. My dad kept doing CPR and was doing everything the dispatcher told him to do. My mom ran outside looking for our neighbor who is a nurse. We ended up hearing sirens and the first responders came rushing through our door. Before I knew it they carried Maverick out into their ambulance and took off. I just sat on the grass thinking, "this isn't really happening, is my son really dead? He can't gone." The first responders were so kind and told me and Nate to get in the other ambulance and they would drive us to the hospital.

We showed up to the nearby hospital where the emergency doctors and nurses got Mavericks coloring back and his heart beating. The staff was so great and tried all they could to save him. A very kind nurse was trying to comfort us and was explaining everything. She told us Maverick is breathing through a tube, and that they hoped he would soon start breathing on his own. They could see the veins in his head which they said was a good sign, and his body seemed to be doing well. For a moment I had hope he would be okay and would make it. Now the waiting game began to see if he had brain damage from the lack of Oxygen and if so, how severe? As I stared at him he just didn't look right. I told my mom, "he is gone!"

The nurses told me they were transferring Maverick to Primary Children's Hospital and the life flight team showed up. The head nurse said, "that isn't good" and Nate asked what isn't good? She said, "when I shine light in his eyes they don't dilate." I said I would ride in the helicopter with him up to Primary Children’s Hospital since there was only room for one of us. Every part of my body felt numb and I was in denial. It was cold, my son was in the back of the helicopter and I couldn't do anything for him. Everything around me was a blur and I didn't understand any of the medical terms the nurses and doctors were saying about Maverick. Then the strong thought of blame started coming over me. I told myself I probably did hear him, and if I would have gone into the room that second he would still be here and we wouldn't be living this nightmare.  How could I ever forgive myself? 

We arrived at Primary Children's Hospital and the nurse from the helicopter with tears in her eyes told me, "you have a beautiful son, I’m sorry we had to meet him this way"; my heart just sank and my eyes filled with tears. I knew then that there was really no hope for Maverick to live.

The head nurse at the hospital then talked to me and basically told me it didn't look good. His brain is unresponsive. They would do what they could but it isn't hopeful. She went on to explain that they can fix a lot of organs and body parts but there is nothing they can do for the brain. I just wanted someone there with me who I could hug. My heart was shattered into a million pieces and I couldn't stop thinking it was all my fault. Nate and my parents finally showed up and I gave them the update that he most likely isn't going to make it. As we sat in a room talking, the doctor rushed in and said it is possible Maverick will go into cardiac arrest at any minute. We should come with her now to see him and she suggested we have our daughters brought up to the hospital to say their goodbyes. Nate’s sister and husband were saints and brought our girls up in the middle of the night so they could say goodbye to their brother.

Maverick ended up making it through the night although he was still on life support. That morning they took him in for CAT scan. They also did the first brain test and he failed it. That was extremely hard watching them put a stick in his throat to gag him with no response. They put drops of water in his ears with no response. They did a few other things with no movement whatsoever from Maverick.  I felt so helpless and heartbroken watching them do these basic things to him and him having no reflux. He just laid there peacefully with his eyes closed. They asked Nate and I if we wanted to wait for a second brain test 12 hour laters or if we wanted to take him off life support. It was our daughters birthday so we opted for the second test so his death date wouldn't be on her birthday. Plus, we were still holding out for some kind of miracle.

After a long day of playing the waiting game, his body was shutting down and he was looking more and more sick. His skin was getting more pale as each hour passed. I kept hoping for a miracle. Hoping at least the line in the machine that tracts his own breathing would go up. But it wasn't looking good. His body was shutting down and was looking sicker and sicker as each hour passed. 

It became evening time with no change. Nate and I each held Maverick for one of our last times. We couldn't hold him like we normally did, because he still had all his cords hooked up and and we had to be extremely careful not to move him as we were told this could put him into cardiac arrest. For the last time I sang the songs I sang to him, gave him a kiss, and told him how sorry I was and that I loved him more then anything.

Around 1:00 in the morning they performed the second brain test, and he failed it. They officially declared Maverick brain dead at 1:30 am. They removed his cords and started to take imprints of his hands and feet. Nate and I held Maverick for our very last time. This time his body was stiff and cold and pale. I wished more than anything he would cuddle up to me, and respond to me. I wished I would be able see his big eyes smile and that big gummy grin that would light up his face. I couldn't stop telling him I was so sorry I didn't save him. It was official. On October 27, 2015 we had lost our sweet, innocent, only baby boy.

We miraculously made it through the viewing and his funeral that week. I remember we had to make all these choices and decisions and I didn't care about what we chose, all I wanted was my baby boy back. Our family and dear friends made his funeral and viewing perfect and covered all the little details I wouldn't have even thought about. There is no way we would have made it through everything that week and still today without the support and help from our friends, family, community, and strangers. We were lifted by Maverick and by each and every one of them. They all are my army of angels down on this Earth. We were so touched with the outpouring of love from everyone, and realized just how many great people there are in this world.  

The beginning of December we got a call from the medical examiner. He told me that he found part of Maverick's large intestine was dead. He explained that he must have been fighting this intestinal issue for a few days and his body just shut down. He assured me he didn't suffocate, but concluded  that his body most likely went into shock and that is what made him unresponsive. But my mind automatically came up with new ways as to how it was my fault. Our pediatrician has been a huge comfort to us. He has been there to explain things to me and help us get any answers we may need.

Since Mavericks death, I have had many feelings of blame and not being able to forgive myself. Could I have harmed his intestine? What would have happened if I would have went into the room earlier? Why didn't he have any signs that he was sick and how did I not know? He was perfectly fine and happy, how did we not know? I have always been paranoid of losing one of my children and now am even more protective of my three daughters. I still have moments of anger, sadness, grief, and sometimes ask why did this happen to me? I have thoughts of "I can't do this anymore, I just want my baby back." It's heartbreaking to see how much my girls miss him at times and to see how sad they get. And It is so hard to see how badly my husband hurts for Maverick.  

But with these down days, have come many up days and days we feel at peace. People’s love and support continue to brighten our family’s life. We have been blessed so much from this trial. We have had many moments of tender mercies and experiences from Heavenly Father, and been shown so much love and support by so many friends, neighbors, family, church leaders and even strangers. I never though I would reach a day where I actually could be happy or have a good day, but those do come.

This trial has hopefully helped many others to spend a little more time with their children and cherish the moments they have with them. Even though I would give anything to change Maverick’s dirty diaper one more time, I know he was a very special spirit that is doing some amazing things on the other side. I am grateful Heavenly Father chose us to be Maverick’s parents and that we were able to have him on this earth for the best two and half months of our lives. Even though it was a short time on this Earth, I know I am a much stronger and better person because of his life, and am blessed to know I can live and raise Maverick again in the next life."

If you are experiencing loss and heartache, I encourage you to visit www.mormon.org.