NICU Life: Baby Kennedy’s Story

by Michal Shaw

Earlier this year Kim and Trey Lester, of Stillwater, were anxiously awaiting the delivery of their third baby girl, Kennedy Reese. Kennedy was due the end of October. Kim’s pregnancy had been completely normal, and her previous deliveries routine. But on September 14, Kim began to get anxious as her wait time for Kennedy’s much-anticipated kicks became longer and longer, until they eventually disappeared altogether. After a steady decline in movement, Kim called Dr. Larissa Smith to share her concern. 

Kim recalled it was a Friday morning when Dr. Smith asked her to come in for an ultrasound. A speech pathologist for Stillwater Public Schools, Kim left Highland Park Elementary at 10 am hopeful a quick trip to SMC would result in good news and peace of mind. The test results were drastically different and what Kim soon discovered was that her placenta wasn’t functioning, she had little fluid, and baby Kennedy’s heartbeat was abnormal. Kennedy was in distress and immediate action was crucial.

What happened next was a blur. “Everything went from 0 to 100 in about two seconds,” Kim recalled. The doctors had to move quickly and sedate Kim for an emergency caesarean. Before fully sedated, it was explained that at 34-weeks, Kennedy would require immediate transport to Oklahoma Children’s NICU, and that Kim would need to remain at SMC. Kim was heartbroken.

Kim shared, “the scariest moment was knowing I would be separated from her.” Through tears, Kim explained, “because you don’t know what’s going to happen. You’re handing your baby over and there is nothing you can do…I didn’t know anything at that point. Was she going to be able to breathe on her own?”

Kennedy Reese Lester was born on September 16, 2022. She was born premature and at 34-weeks gestation, needed advanced care including breathing and feeding support. The date of my interview with Kim was Day 27 in Oklahoma Children’s NICU.

Now, Kim explains the hardest part is the juggling. “Having two other girls who have school and dance class and trying to keep things as normal as possible for them. And being there for Kennedy, while still being there for the other two girls.” Kim went on to explain there are lots of ups and downs, “she’s part of your family but she’s not with you.”

By the end of 2022, Stillwater Medical is striving to raise $1M to support families like Kim’s with the creation of a newborn ICU in Stillwater. Your gifts through the Stillwater Medical Foundation will make it possible to care for babies born as early as 32 weeks that require continuous care.

Help keep babies and their families closer to home by a donation through SMF. The needs are great but together we can reduce unnecessary hardships and provide much needed care for families during some of their most challenging times. 

On the day she arrived, baby Kennedy was the 98th NICU baby at Oklahoma Children’s. The hospital is equipped with 96 beds. A Stillwater Medical NICU will not only serve our community, but all of northcentral Oklahoma. More NICU resources for our state will enhance the health and care for all Oklahoma babies and their families. And hopefully, it will allow families like Kim’s, to spend precious moments cradling their baby and less time on the highway.