Near Tragedy Brought the Walkers to Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital; Healthy Children and a Love for the Hospital Made them Dream Builders
Betsy Walker and her husband, David, welcome any opportunity to meet up with their three children and their spouses, and especially their three granddaughters. Whether it's for a holiday dinner or a University of Florida football game, the Walker family gatherings can be large and lively events.
However, Betsy and David don't mind. They know how lucky they are to have such a happy, healthy family.
Thirty-three years ago, after experiencing a very early miscarriage, Betsy discovered she was still carrying two babies. Her doctor mandated bed rest for the remainder of her high-risk pregnancy. At 28 weeks, Betsy went to her weekly appointment eager to learn how the twins, Brett and Kyndall, were growing.
Excitement quickly turned to fear when Brett's amniotic sac ruptured during the exam. Betsy's doctor quickly arranged for her transfer to Johns Hopkins All Children's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), a regional referral center for the most critically ill newborns.
"My doctor said that for my babies to have any kind of a chance for survival, they had to go to Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital," explains Betsy. "I had never heard of the hospital before, but we were incredibly grateful to learn that such a place existed so close. It was in that moment that I felt like we were giving Brett and Kyndall a real fighting chance."
Within three hours, Betsy went into hard labor. Doctors performed a C-section to avoid any head trauma for these incredibly fragile babies. Brett was the first to arrive. Betsy recalls, "Though I didn't see him, I did hear him cry. He sounded like a kitten." She was elated to hear his soft whimpers and expected to hear the same from Kyndall upon her arrival.
When she only heard silence, Betsy frantically asked "What's wrong with my baby?" Minutes, seeming more like hours, passed before she heard Kyndall's cry for the first time.
The Johns Hopkins All Children's team had successfully resuscitated Kyndall. Betsy was able to see her shortly thereafter. "She was bundled in a blanket, and all I could see was her tiny face and big, beautiful eyes."
Although Betsy could not accompany the twins, David was able to join the Johns Hopkins All Children's specialists as they transferred the babies to the NICU. Betsy required further surgery and ultimately was advised that she should not have any more children. Such news made her even more grateful that her babies survived birth.
"I was able to see them the day after my surgery," said Betsy. Brett weighed only one pound, thirteen ounces and was 13 ¼ inches long at birth, just slightly larger than a Barbie doll. Kyndall was a tad bigger at two pounds, two ounces and 13 ½ inches long. "They were lying on their tummies and hooked up to so many wires." Brett and Kyndall, despite their size, were strong. Both were already off oxygen, which came as a surprise to both the family and caregivers given their prematurity. The good news continued until about a month later, when Brett had a medical emergency.
He was diagnosed with necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a serious disease where bacteria invades the wall of the intestine and causes local infection and inflammation that can ultimately destroy the wall of the bowel. Brett's care team took immediate action and replaced his feeding tubes with an IV containing an antibiotic and another IV with a new type of nutritional solution. Betsy later learned that the solution was developed through pediatric research specifically to treat NEC. He recovered 100 percent.
Betsy and David feel passionate about the role Johns Hopkins All Children's clinical and research expertise played in helping their children. "Research and medical advancements saved my babies' lives. That's what this is all about. Research takes money. Our family believes that if we can spare just one other family from experiencing the loss of a baby, we'll do what's needed."
Since this experience, the Walkers have been devoted advocates and supporters of Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital. Brett and Kyndall participated in and were the posterchildren for the hospital's first annual telethon broadcast through Children's Miracle Network Hospitals. Betsy, David and the whole family also hosted an annual fundraising auction in their home for 16 years, with all proceeds benefiting the hospital.
Today, they continue to give back as Dream Builders by including Johns Hopkins All Children's in their will. Betsy reflects with sincerest gratitude, "I woke up that morning 33 years ago not knowing what adventure that day had in store for us. I didn't know that we would need a place like Johns Hopkins All Children's, but thank goodness it was there.
Johns Hopkins All Children's didn't just give our kids a chance to live, they gave us a chance to be the family we are today."
There are many ways for you to become Dream Builders like Betsy and David Walker. Contact Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital Foundation to get started.