Premature births account for one in every eight births in the United States. On average, a premature baby spends 14 days in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU); although, the Good Shepherd Level IIIa NICU has the ability to care for babies born as early as 24 weeks. The Good Shepherd NICU was established in 2004 and has fulfilled a regional healthcare need by providing care to premature infants or those born with special needs. The NICU would not be a service offering in this area without the gracious support of Longview area families and contributors. Funds raised at the 2004 Gold Rush events benefited the NICU.
The KAJ Foundation was established by two families who experienced the care of the Good Shepherd NICU with their babies. With a combined total of 180 days spent in the NICU, these babies showed strength and determination and because of this life-changing experience, the KAJ Foundation was born.
The heart of the foundation comes from the families’ stories and the miracles that took place at Good Shepherd. Jayde and Kanyon, twins of Kory and Jaymie, were born approximately four months premature. On March 26, 2007, Jaymie delivered Jayde Spencer, weighing 1 lb. 11 oz., and nine minutes later, Kanyon Luke joined her weighing 1 lb. 9 oz.
A difficult delivery proved to be too much for Jayde and after three days of fighting for her life, her parents held her for the first and last time. Kanyon spent a total of 100 days in the hospital with many scary moments and miraculous victories after several surgeries before he even reached 3 pounds. Kanyon now faces a Cerebral Palsy diagnosis as well as other developmental and physical complications, yet he and his sister hold the power to remind their family what really matters and that strength comes from within.
Addison Elizabeth Briscoe was born three months premature through an emergency C-section to Patrick and Holly on July 25, 2008. Addison arrived weighing only 1 lb. 11 oz. They had moved to Longview only a short period before the emergency delivery and were initially concerned with transporting Holly and Addison to a hospital in Dallas or Shreveport.
“If we had transported Addison, the chances of her surviving would have decreased,” Patrick said. “We want people to know and understand that the NICU we have in Longview is state-of-the-art and is capable of caring for such small babies.”
Luckily, friends from their previous home in Kansas City knew the Phillips family and what they experienced at Good Shepherd’s NICU. The Phillips came to the hospital to show their support during Addison’s fight. During the next 80 days spent in the NICU, Addison, her parents and the medical staff fought for Addison’s life. There were many ups and downs, steps forward and steps backward, but the doctors, nurses and staff became the Briscoe’s second family. Good Shepherd helped give the Briscoes the gift of a beautiful, growing baby girl.
These two families have remarkable stories and believe that without the care and compassion brought to them by the Good Shepherd NICU, they would not be where they are today. Through the stories of Jayde, Kanyon and Addison, the KAJ Foundation was established. Having personally experienced the Good Shepherd NICU, these families know what a tremendous gift it is to the community and how important it is to help the NICU and staff continue to grow and advance.
Their hope and goal is to make Good Shepherd’s NICU the most advanced unit in the region for the 350 premature babies that are cared for there each year. “We really want to get the message out that yes, there are other NICUs developing around the region, but Longview’s facility is more than adequate,” Briscoe said, “The NICU is very unique and most importantly it has given us the ability to have a family, which is the greatest gift any of us could have asked for.”
Since their time in the NICU with their first born children, both families have grown. Jaymie and Kory welcomed their second son, Quinn, in 2009 and daughter, Jaylie, in 2012. Holly and Patrick welcomed their second daughter, Landrie, in 2011. Since 2009, the KAJ Foundation has continued to support the Good Shepherd NICU raising over $80,000 for staff education and equipment.