The Coonrod Family Fund—A Profile in Caring

Categories: Donor Story, Patient Families

When Garrison Coonrod turned 1 last November, his parents, Leslie and Lane, did not want to celebrate with presents—Garrison himself was a gift beyond price—so they decided to do something dramatic for others.

November was decidedly not supposed to be Garrison’s birth month: he was due in February, but apparently he just couldn’t wait to see the world. “It had been an easy pregnancy,” Leslie says. “Then, one night before I went to bed I wasn’t feeling so well, but I had an appointment for a regular checkup at 8:00 the next morning with my obstetrician, so I thought I would mention it then.”

She never got to that appointment.

When her water broke unexpectedly that night, she and Lane, went to Hartford where the doctor told her the baby was on his way. “I had been in labor and not known it,” she says. Garrison appeared at 5:32 a.m., weighing just 2lbs. 5oz. A baby born at 27 weeks is not physically ready for life and faces a huge number of medical challenges, so Garrison was taken straight to the Level 4 Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center.

Happy and Healthy

Today, Garrison is 18 months old and is as happy and healthy as any parent could wish. He still goes back to Connecticut Children’s for checkups every few months, where he has 12 specialists working with him. While he may have some delays in his development because of his rocky start, overall, “He’s just a really happy baby,” Leslie says. “He made things really interesting in the first few months, but now it’s the fun part. Last night, we spent the 45 minutes before bed just laughing and rolling on the floor as he’s trying to say words. It’s so nice to finally be at that point. I just can’t say enough about how wonderful that NICU was.”

The Coonrod Family Fund

As Garrison’s first birthday approached, the Coonrods wanted to do something special, so they made a gift to establish the Coonrod Family Fund at Connecticut Children’s to make sure other parents are as comfortable as possible while going through a challenging experience with their premature or critically ill baby. “If someone gives your child the gift of life,” Leslie says, “it seems natural to want to do something for them, to pay it forward.”

The fund will provide what Leslie calls “creature comforts” that would make the parental experience even more comfortable and supportive than it is now. “We wanted to start a fund that would benefit every family, to provide little things that make a difference—a nice chair to sit in, a recliner, a comfy place to hold their baby in. If you’re more comfortable, the baby is more comfortable. It might provide group therapy or one-on-one therapy. It might pay for another few rooms for families to stay in—when I was there, there were families there from hours away, and they had no place to sleep, so they would just sleep sitting in the chair next to their baby at night.”

“Anything that gives a little sense of home, or comfort, or privacy—that’s what we’re hoping to do with this fund,” Leslie says.

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