This post is part of Connor & Connor PLLC’s Philanthropy series, where staff members share charities and philanthropy initiatives that are important to them. This post was written by Rebecca.
Jalen’s Gift Foundation (https://www.jalensgift.org) is dedicated to helping families suffering from the devastating effects of perinatal mortality. They offer a variety of services, from emotional grief support, resources for pregnancy and infant loss, and they provide discounted and/or free funeral expenses along with memorial keepsake boxes to families.
This is about my son Anthony. In early 2014, life was coming together; I was moving out of my condo and into a house. My significant other and I had been trying for a baby; I even went through fertility testing. Having a baby just seemed impossible. I had made an appointment with Red Rock Fertility Center, but blew it off because I was diagnosed with lupus, and it felt like my life had just been crushed. Since lupus complicates pregnancy so much more and could have negative effects on babies, we decided to stop trying and worrying about getting pregnant.
We were all settled in our new house. It was the Saturday night before Halloween and we had gone to dinner: sushi at our favorite place! After dinner, I felt sick (I thought ahhh, bad sushi, go figure). We stopped at Walgreens for a Redbox movie and as my daughter picked a movie, I thought I would run inside and grab some candy.
As I was walking to check out, I saw a pregnancy test; I thought, yeah right, what would be the odds? I grabbed one and threw it in my cart anyway.
That evening, we all watched movies and then went to bed. I woke up at 2:00 am with the worst indigestion, throwing up. I was miserable. Sushi may be bad, but heartburn? I took a test…. Pregnant! I thought: What. This has to be wrong; it’s not my first pee of the day, so it’s probably a false positive.
I woke up around 9:00 am and took another test. Positive. I thought it was a bad box, so I went for coffee in my PJs, but really went to CVS to grab another pregnancy test so I could retest.
I arrived home, no coffee in hand, and went to the restroom. Two tests later and after about a 20-minute frenzy, I exited the restroom. PREGNANT! My miracle had finally arrived.
I went to my first OB appointment; the normal stuff happened and I was given a tentative due date. My regular OB referred me to a High-Risk Pregnancy Doctor due to my medical history. By my first appointment, I was on edge, but things were great. I was expecting a baby boy!
I had terrible morning/evening/all day sickness and had to stay close to a trash can. Every smell made me so sick.
As my pregnancy started progressing, I saw my OB as normal and the high-risk doctor 1 to 2 times a week. I started bleeding in my second month of pregnancy. The doctor said it was fine and to take it easy. So, I did as little as I could. My days became doctor appointment after doctor appointment, daily injections, daily medications, monitoring around the clock, bed rest (where I was only allowed to get up to go the restroom), and a shower once a week if I was lucky. Even with everything going on, I was extremely ecstatic and could not wait to welcome my baby boy Anthony into this world. Things started getting more intense; I was further along and the bleeding never subsided. Still, three to four times a week visits and they said I was fine and Anthony was good too.
I went to an appointment, and felt awkward, and was having pain; they attributed it to ligament pain. The weekend came. I was in excruciating pain, but it was my daughter’s 13th birthday party at Game Works. I pushed through.
While I was at Game Works, my pain became unbearable. I couldn’t stop throwing up and I was just miserable. I decided I needed to leave. I left my sister-in-law in charge of getting the kids to the correct parents and overseeing the remainder of the party.
I went to Urgent Care. Urgent Care instructed me to go to the ER.
Once again, I found myself at St. Rose Hospital for like the dozenth time. It was so frustrating. They immediately started doing a bunch of tests, blood work, a CAT scan, and pumped me with pain medication. After a while, they said it was appendicitis. I had asked several times about my baby and they said that he was fine. But not once did they check my cervix for dilation, or put me on a monitor for contractions.
They admitted me and sent me to a room upstairs in labor and delivery, still treating me for appendicitis. Finally, into the late evening and early morning, they said it’s not appendicitis, we don’t know why you are having so much pain; you should be able to leave tomorrow. At this time Anthony was going strong, hanging in there.
The next evening, I was in the hospital bed, still in excruciating pain. All of a sudden, there was a gush. I knew it was not the normal gush of blood and clots that I had been experiencing. I told the nurse something was wrong and that my water had broken. The nurses were skeptical and told me to change in the bathroom and they would call the doctor. I was sure it was my water and the nurses dismissed me.
I knew it was my water and I didn’t have the heart to tell my significant other. I was now about 25 weeks and knew Anthony couldn’t survive this.
I waited over 22 hours to see a doctor after that moment. Not once did they check my cervix, nor did they do an amniotic fluid swab test. They were horrible to me.
When the doctor came in, he brought a portable ultrasound machine to my room. I explained everything that had happened. He then confirmed my water had broken, but Anthony was still holding on strong, my little fighter. The doctor said there was a one percent chance that my water bag could repair itself. He gave me a prescription of antibiotics to prevent an infection and said I needed to go home.
My discharge instructions were as follows: Take your antibiotics as directed, follow up once a week with your doctor for a heartbeat check. Once the heart stops, your OB will have delivery instructions. They were sending me home, telling me to wait patiently for my son to pass away while in my womb.
Part of me thought it’s ok. I’m that 1% and my baby will be fine. It was a Tuesday afternoon and I went home; my next appointment wasn’t until the next Thursday. Each time I took an antibiotic, it was a constant reminder of what was happening on the inside of my body. Again, day and night just holding my belly, crying, screaming and asking why.
Just a few days later, I felt something was wrong. I went back to the hospital. The nurse got a portable ultrasound machine, and there it was…. silence. There was no heartbeat, Anthony had stopped fighting the fight.
They admitted me again to labor and delivery. A room at the end of a quiet hallway. They hooked me to an IV and said they would be with me shortly. A nurse came in and placed four pills in my hand, she told me to take them to induce labor. My significant other had to leave to coordinate care for my daughter. I held the pills in a fist and refused to take them until he got back.
He arrived back within the hour, and that was it. I took the pills and waited; I waited to deliver my son I couldn’t take home.
The pain began. The excruciating contractions… A nurse checked on me here and there. After five or so hours, it was time, time to push. And I did. I delivered Anthony at St. Rose Hospital.
There is a bit more detail but it’s too hard to fully explain.
After my son was taken away, I had to fill out paperwork for a burial permit instead of a birth certificate. No time to process or grieve, just paperwork thrown in my face.
A nurse came in just before my release and had a beautifully decorated box with Anthony’s name on the side. In the box was a mold of his hands and feet in clay, a beautiful memory book for me to fill out, a small bear, a receiving blanket and a little blue hat. She stated that a photographer could also come at no cost and take some photos for me, so that I could have something else of my Anthony. I so graciously accepted. This was all I had of Anthony: this box, and photos to come.
I remember being pushed out of labor and delivery in a wheel chair, through the halls of labor and delivery, screaming babies to my right and left, a woman in a wheel chair just parallel to me holding her son, being pushed out too, but her arms full. My empty arms, my empty heart, my empty soul, my empty eyes, I couldn’t even smile at her. I was dead inside and out.
I decided that I wanted Anthony cremated, so we went through Davis Funeral Home. There were so many problems with the death certificate, the authorization for cremation, etc. I had to go to the hospital twice to redo the paperwork and it took over 27 days to receive my son’s ashes. Not to mention that when I did receive them, they were in the incorrect urn.
When I received his ashes, I also had received my photos from the hospital, courtesy of Jalen’s Gift Foundation. I was so grateful that I had these memories of Anthony, and it was comforting to know that I was not alone. I had Anthony’s molded footprints turned into a stamp and had his feet tattooed on my wrist, so that everywhere I walked, he would be right along with me. I joined the support group that Jalen’s offered online and in person. My survival after my loss of Anthony is because of Gaby, Jerome, and the other parents that I have since connected with. I am so grateful for the foundation and all that they have done and continue to do.
There is not a day that goes by, or a breath that I take, that I do not think of Anthony.
About Jalen’s Gift Foundation
Jerome and Gabriela Foster asked each other what they would have wanted after they lost Jalen. They said they wanted to have some comfort in their grief, but also hope for the future that they would be able to have another baby someday, that everything will be okay, and that they have a place to go where they can feel safe in the way that they are feeling.
With that, they had their slogan (to Provide Comfort and Hope after a Pregnancy or Infant Loss) as the primary mission of the foundation. All services they offer are free to any family that’s suffered the loss of a baby during pregnancy or after birth through their first year of life. They do not believe that any parent should have to pay to be reminded they lost a baby.
Jalen’s Gift Foundation works with all Las Vegas hospitals, doctors’ offices, and hospice care facilities. They offer families everything they need to help them get through such a painful process.
Today, when a family has a loss, the hospitals only have to call Jalen’s Gift Foundation to receive the following:
- One of their care packages
All of these care packages are assembled by families and friends of someone who has suffered a loss, whether it’s from a miscarriage, stillbirth or up to the first year of life. It’s a way to let the family immediately know that they’re not alone and there is a community out there that will be with them through their grief journey.
- Remembrance photography
The foundation’s photographers will come out to the hospital and provide professional pictures of the family’s last moments with their baby.
- A free urn
Or, Jalen’s Gift Foundation will make a donation towards a burial and service.
- Private online community support
As a way to receive emotional support, Jalen’s Gift Foundation connects grieving families to over 900 other families worldwide who’ve also lost a child.
- In-person support
The foundation meets once a month and have in-person fellowship nights. They have support groups for children, Spanish-speaking families, men and more.
- Multiple community events
Jalen’s Foundation has hosted pregnancy fairs, memorial walks, remembrance vigils, care package parties (where families come together and build care packages for the hospitals), and other family-friendly events throughout the year.
To date, they have offered their services to more than 1,000 families from 18 countries. Jalen’s Gift Foundation is available 24/7 to families that are suffering.
The foundation has made a difference in the Las Vegas community and has become Gaby and Jerome’s life passion.
The foundation has received multiple awards, including “The First Humanitarian Award”; KLAS-TV’s “Acts of Kindness Award”; KSNV-TV’s “Local Heroes Award”; and the Clark County Medical Society’s “Winged Heart Award.” The Winged Heart award is given to a non-profit that is raising the bar of service in the medical community in Clark County. And in 2016, the City of Henderson signed a proclamation that declared October “Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month” in honor of Jalen’s Gift Foundation.
“Not a day goes by that we don’t miss Jalen. He’ll always be a missing part of our lives. Often I think my family had to go through the grieving process to find a way to heal. This has been the most humbling experience of our lives. Together, we’ve mourned, found a new normal and we’ve learned to live again and smile.
Jalen has taught us the true meaning of compassion and giving unconditionally. And that’s what we hope to achieve through Jalen’s Gift Foundation.”
– Jerome and Gabriele Foster, founders of Jalen’s Gift Foundation
In October, in honor of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, as well as Jalen’s Gift Foundation, Connor & Connor PLLC will be creating memory boxes for families affected by the tragic loss of an infant. If you are interested in contributing, please email us at email@example.com.