We watched Superman fly.
That was my thought as I watched my 15-day-old son leave the North Mississippi Medical Center helipad and leave for Le Bonheur Children's Hospital on Thursday. A tenuous morning turned tragic, as Clark, known his brief life as "Superman," succumbed to complications from his prematurity and low birth weight.
On April 15, Clark was born four months early and weighing 11.9 ounces. We were told his chance of survival outside the womb, even just for a few minutes, was less than 10 percent. I stood in the operating room and - literally - waited for a thumbs up or down signaling his stabilization.
Article Continues Below
We were told within a day he was the smallest baby to be admitted into the neonatal intensive care unit in Tupelo, and Super Clark, given the name by a respiratory therapist his first hours defied odds those first few days, regulating his own blood pressure without medication, undergoing multiple head ultrasounds without brain bleeds and getting his ventilator settings down to 24 percent oxygen within the first 24 hours - room air is 21 percent.
The honeymoon period, when premature babies do better before settling into a roller coaster of complications, supposedly lasts a day or two, but Clark conquered a week without major incident. Along the way we met a three-year-old girl who is the "record holder" for smallest baby to survive the Tupelo NICU. As the days piled up, we were optimistic and confident she would have to move down the podium.
Even on Wednesday, as we celebrated two weeks, despite some stats drops and hazy lung scans, positive hopes remained. Then, on Thursday morning, his color changed, complications occurred, and I watched as he was loaded and flown 45 minutes to Memphis.
My son passed away Thursday afternoon in my arms, his tiny hand wrapped around my finger. In those final minutes, we were able to hold him and tell him we love him and what a difference he made on this world. As I sit here numb, angry and writing because I'm struggling to audibly put together words, I'm filled with thanks and incredible appreciation as well as the honor that comes with being that boy's father.
I changed diapers, took his temperature and watched him continuously grab my fingers with his toes during our two weeks together. He opened his eyes and responded to voices and provided proof that God does magnificent things.
But, my main takeaway as I write for therapy and to give thanks, is that in 15 brief days Clark touched more lives and organized more positive human interaction than some of us do over a lifetime. Just four days old, we counted 14 different states where he occupied a spot on the prayer lists at churches.
In an act of human kindness that I'll never be able to adequately express thanks for, his life led to a fundraiser that far outreached any expectations. The excess amount will be paid forward somewhere in his name.
I am writing this for myself in hopes words written provide me with an outlet for my unanswerable questions and, frankly, bitter feelings. But, due to the support of the community, Kara and I also wanted you to know more about the great boy you held up in prayer and thoughts and good deeds. My faith in humanity has never been higher, as I feel like I have an extended family that reaches to the ends of Oxford, Ole Miss, Mississippi and the digital world.
The NMMC NICU team will forever be in my heart for their care, support and over-and-beyond assistance during this trying time. Specific thanks must go to Clark's nurse, Renee, and hospital social worker Christy, two women we owe more to than they'll ever know.
Clark laid his hand on so many lives and will continue to do so in the future. He's now an angel, and he fulfilled his duty of making us recognize the good in people and the overflowing support we are capable of in difficult circumstances.
We love you, Superman. Heroes come in the tiniest of sizes.