Flint, MI—Kaidyn Lewis was just 1 pound, 5 ounces when he was born at the Hurley Medical Center, and his mother, Alicia Leonard-Lewis, said her son has come a long way since then.
Kaidyn is now one of six children in Hurley’s newly unveiled “Hall of Fame,” a wall honoring the stories of “Hurley miracles” in the hallway leading to the hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), which cares for premature newborns or those who are critically ill.
The Hall of Fame debuted on April 3, 2023 in honor of Children’s Hospitals Week kicking off, according to a Hurley press release. The week is meant to celebrate and fundraise for member hospitals of the national nonprofit organization Children’s Miracle Network, of which Hurley is one.
When Leonard-Lewis received a message about her son being featured on the Hall of Fame from a nurse who had cared for Kaidyn—or as Leonard-Lewis called him, “my little perfect bundle”—at the NICU, she was overjoyed.
“I was like, ‘Oh my God,’” she said. “I just instantly cried. It’s so easy to forget how he started because he’s nothing like that now. He’s 12, getting ready to be 13 in August.”
“It was shocking in a good way,” Kaidyn said of the news. “I didn’t expect to be on there.”
Kaidyn was born in 2010 and spent 66 days at Hurley’s NICU, which his mother said “felt like a lifetime.” Nevertheless, Leonard-Lewis said she counted her blessings, given that her son was taken off breathing support much earlier than expected and experienced no major complications along the way.
“I always tell everybody, ‘The only thing that was wrong with Kaidyn was he was small,’” Leonard-Lewis said.
Dylan, Ethan and Logan
For Jessica Sessink, hearing about her triplets being on the Hall of Fame “brings back all those memories” from her pregnancy with Dylan, Ethan and Logan and their time spent at the NICU in 2020.
Roughly a year after giving birth to her daughter, Sessink and her husband found out she was expecting a pair of twins. But, her medical team later discovered she was actually carrying an addition to her fraternal twins.
“When we got pregnant the second time, we were thinking that we were just going to have this two children family,” she said. “We thought that we were done after that, so we were blown away to find out that we were going to have twins, let alone triplets.”
It was a high-risk pregnancy, Sessink added, and she was transferred to Hurley for care. After delivering her triplets, the newborns spent a combined total of 250 days at the NICU during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since then, Sessink said the triplets have hit or surpassed all their milestones, and all the siblings now have “built-in best friends” at home.
For Tiffany Lechota, she and her family have spent Children’s Hospitals Week raising awareness for Down syndrome and fundraising for an annual race hosted by family friends and Down Right Awesome.
Down Right Awesome is a nonprofit organization founded by Lechota following the birth of her daughter Ellie, another child in Hurley’s NICU Hall of Fame.
Ellie is over 2 years old now, and Lechota looks forward to seeing her daughter’s story gracing Hurley’s hallway when they visit for a doctor’s appointment next week.
“Being someone that’s walked down that hall quite a few days and hours, knowing that it will give someone a little bit of hope, I think it’s awesome to be part of that for somebody else,” Lechota said.
In 2021, Lechota said she was about 34 weeks pregnant when she felt that something was amiss. On the day she was transferred to Hurley, a huge snowstorm hit, and she gave birth to her daughter that night.
She said Ellie was sent to the NICU due to issues with her breathing and sugar levels, and during her seven days there the medical team began to suspect Ellie may have Down syndrome.
Roughly two weeks after Ellie’s discharge, her mother received a phone call from the doctor, who confirmed the team’s suspicions.
“From the second we learned about it, we have gone at it feet-first, 110% with probably the most positive attitude,” Lechota said.
Now, during the summer months, Ellie spends her weekends watching her dad and older brother racing cars, a passion for the Lechota family, and the racing community has rallied around them in support of their daughter.
Like Lechota, Chambria Mack also hopes that the story of her daughter, Miracle, will help uplift families whose children are in Hurley’s NICU.
“It’s such an emotional journey, especially in the beginning because you don’t know what to expect,” Mack said. “But to see success stories would help in those moments when you’re feeling a little defeated or you just feel like you need a boost.”
During her journey at the NICU, Mack said she would come across other families at the hospital and tell them about her own family’s story as an encouragement.
“I knew that it would anchor them to see that miracles are possible,” Mack said. “Don’t give up. Stay positive. Because if it can happen for Miracle, it most definitely can happen for you.”
According to Mack, Miracle was given a 2% chance of survival, as she was born roughly four months prior to her due date at the weight of just 14 ounces.
Over the course of 114 days at the NICU, Mack added, Miracle experienced a range of health conditions, including chronic lung disease, a severe brain bleed, convulsions and poor muscle tone.
“I can’t remember even how many times I was told she wouldn’t make it,” Mack said.
But, she was finally able to take her daughter home by December 2013, just around the time of Mack’s own birthday.
“It was the best gift ever and she came home before her due date,” Mack said. “It was amazing.”
Miracle is now a fourth grader at Michigan International Prep School, with her mother describing her as an advanced reader, a self-taught student who gets straight A’s in school.
“She lives up to her name every day, honestly,” Mack said. “She’s just an amazing little girl.”