Last year, Marcia and Darryl Drover experienced parents’ worst fear — they lost their infant son. But the couple is turning their sorrow into something positive for others by helping bring a little happiness into other families’ heartache.
“I needed to do something,” Marcia said.
“I think when you watch your child die, and you lose a child, you have two options. One is you can hate the world and get depressed and angry. Or you can talk about it and give back and find a way to keep his memory alive. You can turn it into a positive experience, and that’s what I wanted to do.”
On Sunday, she visited the Janeway Children’s Hospital delivering gift cards and receiving blankets to all the families on all three levels of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, a place with special meaning to the Drovers.
The Grand Falls-Windsor couple’s youngest son, Zachariah Isaac, was born on July 19, 2010, at 24 weeks — the earliest point at which a child can be delivered. They have two older children, Brock, now five, and Olivia, two.
Zachariah weighed less than a pound and was placed on life support in the Janeway’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
Marcia said the family travelled to St. John’s every Wednesday and stayed until Sunday to spend time with Baby Zach.
“As soon as I would go in, the nurses would get Baby Zach up for me so that I could hold him and spend time with him,” Marcia Drover said.
“He responded very well to that. If he was having a bad day, his day would get better if he was held by me, and if he heard my voice he would always perk up.”
She got to know the nurses and doctors quite well.
“The Janeway Hospital became my home and the nurses and doctors became my family and friends,” Marcia said.
“They would let me change him, give him baths, wipe him down. Sometimes the nurse would come and I would know more than they would about what was going on with him that day.”
She said her baby’s surgeon, Dr. Andre Hodder, was amazing.
“Zachariah was a surgical patient from birth, so he saw Dr. Hodder every single day I was there,” she said.
“Even if Dr. Hodder was off, he would still come in and check on him, especially if he was having a bad day. He would want to physically come and see if he was doing well, and to make sure I was doing OK. I would say one of his favourite patients was Baby Zach. The nurses loved him because he was so small and strong and a fighter.”
Though Olivia only got to have a few short visits with Zachariah, Brock visited him often.
“Brock would come and sing a song and read a story and as soon as he was done, the nurses used to laugh so hard because it was the same every time, he would sit there and say, ‘OK, can I have my ice cream now?’ They would put a towel on his lap and he would have his ice cream. Then he would kiss (Zach’s) hand and touch the incubator and say ‘goodbye’ and ‘I love you’ to Zach.”
“That’s how we spent 107 days of Zachariah’s life, … doing that five days a week.”
Baby Zach overcame a number of obstacles, but contracted infections which resulted in organ failure.
Zachariah died on Nov. 3, 2010, but through his family, his fighting spirit continues.
And his memory will live on, even at the Janeway.
To mark what would have been Zachariah’s first birthday, the family decided to give back to the Janeway, and the families who are spending time there. Marcia started a Facebook group and a blog asking people to donate receiving blankets and gift cards for establishments in St. John’s such a restaurants, gas stations and coffee shops.
“They gave so much to us, and people gave so much to us,” she said.
“The fundraiser that they had here for us that helped us pay for gas and accommodations really touched us. And, by doing this, we knew we could, in a small way, touch people’s lives that are going through such a hard experience.
“Meeting other families there, not everybody handles things well, and a lot of normal people would be scared, and most people are, so a small gift really brightens their day and gives them something to smile about, even just for a few minutes. It reminds them that someone is thinking about them and they are not alone.”
The Drovers ended up with more gifts than they needed.
“The dollar amount was over $1,500 and we’re still receiving donations, which we are going to put towards next year,” Marcia said. “We’re going to do this again next year. It really made a great difference in people’s lives.”
When she delivered the packages, she also brought a cake for the staff and families, and a memorial plaque for Zachariah, which her husband made.
“It’s (a picture of) one of the nurses holding his feet,” Marcia said. “They are going to find a special place for it on the wall for everyone to see.”
She was pleased to meet other mothers with children in the Janeway, and one in particular stands out — a woman from the Northern Peninsula who has spent the last three months at the Janeway with her daughter, who was born at 24 weeks and six days.
“I think that’s what made such a big connection, six days further along than Baby Zach, which isn’t very much,” Marcia said, adding the staff let her in to meet the baby, with the parents’ approval.
“It was special. I went in and got to meet her little baby. She let me talk to her, and I gave the mom a big hug. It was just such a special moment to be able to meet someone who has been there by herself for so long and be able to brighten her day a little bit.”
That mother, Susan McDonald, said she’s grateful she and her daughter, Emily, were able to meet Marcia, and she appreciates the gifts they received.
“I think it is amazing that she has the strength to do what she is doing and I admire her for that,” McDonald said.
“I know it must be hard for her and I feel nothing but respect and empathy for her and her family because I know somewhat what she went through. There was a time that we didn’t know if Emily would make it or not. It is tough, but you take each day in stride and knowing that others have been through what you have makes a difference.”
The marking of Zachariah’s birthday did not end at the Janeway.
The family had a balloon release at the Windsor Pentecostal graveyard, with Pastor Justin Parsons leading the group in prayer, and Darryl Drover saying a few words.
“It was perfect. We were surrounded by friends,” Marcia said. “The balloons, when they all started floating in the sky to heaven, it was perfect. It was just so special to watch them go up. It felt like we were celebrating his birthday and we were celebrating his life.”
Earlier in the day, Brock and his mother went to visit Baby Zach’s grave and Brock brought his baby brother a present — a teddy bear — and he released a couple of balloons.
When he couldn’t see them anymore he said, “Mommy, they are in heaven now. Baby Zach got his balloons,” Marcia said.
The family plans to make the balloon release an annual celebration.