“Graham changed our perspective on life and at how we look at things.”
Those are the words of Jeremy Hughes, who along with his wife, Kristan, suffered the loss of their son, Graham, July 26, 2018, three weeks after he was born prematurely at ProMedica Toledo Hospital on July 5, 2018.
Admitting to being devastated, “in a dark valley,” and not sure what to do, Kristan shared the couple, who reside in Napoleon, “Found purpose in their pain.”
That purpose has been to celebrate Graham, his impact on their family, and to give back to those who helped them during Graham’s time on earth.
“When Graham passed away, we knew we wanted to do something to honor and remember him on his first birthday,” began Kristan, “so, a few months after he passed away, we started doing research on what we could donate to Mott’s (C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, Mich., where Graham was transferred) and to ProMedica Toledo Hospital.
“We settled on donating a caring cradle (a device that cools and offers a more dignified, comfortable way for parents and families to spend time with a baby who has passed away), but Mott’s didn’t need one, so we donated one to Promedica Toledo Hospital,” continued Kristan. “We just wanted to honor his birthday, so we reached out to family and friends, who helped us put together a fundraiser.”
The fundraiser raised enough money to donate a caring cradle, as well as thermals and bags from Thirty-One Gifts. At that time, Jeremy and Kristan didn’t know if the donation would be just that one time, but like Jeremy said, “Graham changed our perspective on life and at how we look at things.”
Said Jeremy: “Our perspective changed to how can we share Graham with other people, so that he can change their lives, too. That’s a big reason we started fundraising for his first birthday in the first place.”
Said Kristan: “After you lose a child, you are in such a dark valley, even though you have your family (which includes Graham’s older brother, Brody, and now younger sister, Eloise) and friends around you, you still feel so alone. You start to question, why did we have to go through this? After some time, that’s where we had to find purpose in our pain, there was a purpose Graham was given and why God had to take him back. We had to find that purpose.
“When Jeremy says our perspective changed, he means we live life differently and we love a little bit harder,” continued Kristan.
Said Jeremy: “We appreciate the small things.”
Jeremy and Kristan shared before Graham was born, they learned he would possibly be born with Down Syndrome, he had a congenital heart defect and he was growing behind schedule. Graham was born at 34 weeks, due to a knot in the umbilical cord, and Down Syndrome was confirmed.
The couple shared, “he was a fighter,” but days after his birth, his white blood count began to rise, which prompted his transfer to C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. While Graham was in the hospital, they, including son, Brody, were able to stay at Ronald McDonald House there for a time.
Unfortunately, Graham was diagnosed with Children’s Leukemia, which is a strong risk factor for children born with Down Syndrome. He underwent chemotherapy, but as the days passed by, his condition grew worse. The time came when the Hughes’ learned from the doctors Graham was suffering.
“We got a call one morning at 2 a.m., that they had to intubate him because he wasn’t able to breath on his own. When I walked in that room, I knew it was time ... God was telling me we had to let him heal,” said Kristan through tears.
Said Jeremy: “The doctors gave us options to keep him breathing, but he would need a lot of medication to be comfortable. So, we had Graham baptized and we let close family come and say goodbye. While I was holding him, he coughed out his breathing tube and made the decision for us.”
On July 5, 2020, two years after his birth, the couple donated items and a meal to Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northwest Ohio in Toledo, following a virtual fundraising effort. The couple wanted to donate to the Ronald McDonald House in Ann Arbor, but learned the house in Toledo was in need.
A few short weeks ago, on what would have been Graham’s third birthday, the couple made a pair of $1,350 donations to Schaffer Funeral Home in Defiance. The donations are to help two families pay for funerals after the loss of an infant/child, (see related story, Page A?).
The money was raised through a fundraiser titled, “Be The Light,” in which Jeremy and Kristan explained, “Because of Graham’s life, we have been called to, ‘be the light,’ in the lives of families enduring the pain of child loss.”