By Colleen Sparks GSN Staff Writer
A husband and wife who have gone on a tumultuous journey nursing their son, who was born prematurely, to a healthier state are once again trying to comfort other parents who have been in their shoes.
Breann and Jesse Vogt, former Chandler residents who recently moved to Gilbert, organized a donation drive and delivered more than 600 items, including toys and books, to Cardon Children’s Medical Center in Mesa last month.
The collections will help babies and children being treated in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) at Cardon, as well as their siblings.
The Vogts’ son, Asher, who recently turned 2, spent 310 days at Cardon after he was born at 29½ weeks.
The Vogts also collected toys and other baby items to give to the medical center last year as a way to brighten the long days and nights of families whose young ones are being treated there.
Breann said people she and Jesse have known some of the people who stepped up to make the donations their whole lives.
“It’s been so awesome to see, and we’re so grateful to them,” she said. “We saw a need and really we helped facilitate it for all the people who want to help out, who have tender hearts. If it wasn’t for their generosity, we wouldn’t be able to do this.
“It’s really exciting to be able to give back and to see positive stories coming from the people who had received gifts before. It’s nice to know someone’s thinking about them and praying for them and there’s hopefully a light at the end of the tunnel for them.”
Breann, who chairs the parent advisory board for the NICU at Cardon, and Jesse have another son, Colton, who is 3 and a half years old. She said Arizona Milk Producers/Dairy Council of Arizona, for which she does consulting freelance work, donated about 400 items in the drive.
The state council gave storybooks, coloring books and other things for children. Many other people donated toys, board games, coloring books, a mermaid blanket and other materials for children, including the young patients and their siblings.
Breann set up a wish list on amazon.com so people could get suggestions on what to donate. She and her mother, visiting from Wisconsin, wrapped them in ribbon and put cards in them with the story on Asher and information on contacting the parent advisory board, as well as other resources.
The medical center staff members are grateful for the support from the Vogts to their patients and the patients’ families.
“This generous donation helps to support not only our patients, but the families taking care of them, and in turn supports the community,” said Barbara Edwards, nursing director for women and infant services at Banner Desert Medical Center and Cardon Children’s.
“As a health care team, when families give back it reminds us of the impact we have made in their lives and how they have touched ours. We are so blessed to be a part of this community,” Edwards said.
Breann had to go on bed rest at Banner Desert Medical Center for 35 days.
She said when Asher was born, he was not breathing and she did not know his condition. Asher was given oxygen and breathing tubes were put in him because was born with “severely underdeveloped lungs.”
The Vogts spent much time at the hospital with Breann decreasing her work to part time at Arizona Milk Producers. Breann would work for a while in the morning and then spend her days at the hospital while Jesse would arrive at the hospital after work.
Since Asher’s condition was not improving, he underwent a tracheostomy, where an artificial airway is put into the windpipe through a surgical incision to provide a long-term way to ventilate him.
The couple tried to keep their spirits up by planning themed days, including one where everyone at the medical center wore Chicago Cubs T-shirts, with Asher wearing a Cubs onesie.
Nurses said Asher had difficult days but grew stronger and bigger. He went home for three weeks but had to return to the hospital after he suffered bronchial spasms, which Breann described as like a severe asthma attack.
Breann said Asher, who has been home for a while now, is “doing really good” though he still has some challenges. He had to have emergency surgery for a twisted bowel and the family was told he had a 50 percent chance of surviving.
“It was really scary,” Breann said. “Thankfully and miraculously he pulled through that. We spent a month in the hospital recovering from that.”
Asher receives physical therapy and speech and feeding therapy at home every week. He weighs 24 pounds, 4 ounces.
Breann said it feels like their family is much “farther removed from being in the ICU” at Cardon.
“It’s crazy how it seems like so long ago but at the time it seemed like forever, being there every day and sleeping there and waking up there to now having so much more stability with Asher in our life,” she said.
“We’re so grateful to Cardon and the families before us that we wanted to pay it forward to the families that were in the same situation that we were once in, the generous donations of family and friends and strangers who really made it possible.”