On July 30, 1999 at 5:16 p.m. a beautiful, health baby girl came into this world. Five days later that little girl was called back to Heaven. We are certain that she was welcomed back with both joy and sadness. Devon Nicole stayed just long enough to be held in the arms of her father, mother, and grandparents. Dad spent his time reading to her about angels… and cried a lot. Mom held her and told her about her triplet brother and sisters… and she cried a lot, too.
This may sound like the end of a story, but as it turns out, it is just the beginning of an incredible journey. Allow me to back up a little and set the stage for labor of love that has been placed in our hearts.
In March of 1997 Deanna and I, Thomas Missert, discovered that after 3 years of trying to conceive a child, we were going to be blessed with not one but three babies. Triplets! The planning, preparations, and research began immediately… fueled by a little bit of panic.
On October 26, 1997, at 35 weeks into the pregnancy, Deanna gave birth to Justin, Kaley and Brittany, three beautiful, healthy babies. They stayed only briefly at the hospital before coming home. Then the work began. We had several family members and friends that came over to help. However, after a few weeks we were on our own. The 2 a.m. feedings were probably the hardest times, but we look back now and simply laugh at how tired we were. Deanna had the kids on a great schedule and by 14 weeks they were sleeping through the night.
The triplets were just over a year old when Deanna and I found out that we were expecting another child. We were both very happy and very nervous about the soon to arrive baby. That day of discovery seems like an eternity ago. So much has changed in our lives that we could not have even imagined what was going to happen to us… not even in our worst nightmares.
After giving birth to triplets, we expected that this time would be a routine single baby pregnancy. I guess you could say we were correct. The pregnancy went very well. All the normal tests and even the ultrasounds showed that the baby was doing just fine. Deanna carried Devon through 40 weeks. We went into the hospital on a Thursday night, July 29, 1999 to prepare for an induced birth the following day. At 5:30 am the following morning Deanna began a slow IV drip with potossin. Through the course of the morning everything went great! Then problems started to occur. Deanna went into heavy and very painful back labor at 12:30 p.m. After that it seemed that things just did not go the way they were suppose to.
Devon Nicole was a fighter and loved life very much. She was in fetal distress from about 2:30 p.m. on. At 4:54 p.m. on a Friday afternoon we lost Devon’s heart beat. At some point Deanna’s uterus burst trying to deliver Devon. We later found out that the rupture was so sever that Deanna should have hemorrhaged and lost a lot of more blood than she did, but Devon remained in the lower end of the birth canal and that pressure slowed the bleeding. I believe that Devon loved her mom so much that she saved Deanna’s life that day.
The doctor, nurses and I wheeled Deanna’s bed into the operating room where they performed an emergency caesarian section. At 5:16 p.m. Devon was born. She had gone for 20 minutes or so without oxygen. The additional doctors and staff, now just arriving, split into two teams. One team worked on Deanna the other tried to breathe life back into a beautiful little girl named Devon Nicole.
I had been praying most of the afternoon for God’s help. As I watched the doctors and staff work on my wife and newborn daughter, I fell to my knees and prayed a lot harder. I begged God to save both of them. I believe that he heard my prayers and did what he could to save them both. I knew that Deanna and I would love little Devon with all our hearts, even if she might have disabilities or special needs. I told God that we would take Devon any way that he chose to give her to us. I believe that through His grace Devon was not taken from us that day and that she was allowed to spend a little more time with Deanna and I.
The 2 doctors and nurse working on Devon were able to resuscitate her. After her seizures subsided they were able to stabilize her. I was finally able to get close enough to touch her small hand. Looking at her I told Devon that her mother and I loved her very much. I still believed at that time that there was a chance that everything would be O.K.
Devon and then Deanna were transferred to the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth (CHaD). I knew the drive to that hospital very well because that is where Devon’s brother and sisters were born. When the triplets were born I had stayed a few nights at a place called David’s House, which is like a Ronald McDonald’s house for children and their families. I checked with the people that ran the home and asked if there was room for me again. They said there was always room for the parents of a child at CHaD.
Devon Nicole was only able to stay with us for 5 short days. She slept peacefully the entire. She never cried. The doctors told us on Monday that because of the period of time that Devon went with out oxygen, she had no upper brain activity. With out life support she would not recover. Deanna and I had decisions to make that no parent should ever have to consider. Tuesday morning I awoke from a dream where I was talking with Devon. She wanted to help other children. I asked her how? She smiled at me and said, “Daddy, you’ll know how.”
Deanna and I talked about it and we decided to donate Devon’s organs since she was a very healthy little girl. The organ donor coordinator said that Devon would qualify for heart valve donations and that there was a tremendous need for these valves in children born with congenital heart defects.
On Wednesday night, August 4, 1999, we said our good byes to Devon and released her from this world. She passed peacefully into the hear-after and now plays in the heavens above. There is not a day that has passed since then that we do not think about her. We talk about Devon with the triplets when they ask about her. Occasionally they let go of helium balloons in our driveway for their sister Devon to play with.
The time since we lost Devon has been hard. Deanna and I both have gone through months of sleepless nights thinking about all the “What ifs...” and asking the “Why…” questions. It was on one such sleepless night that Deanna was given another clue as to where all of this may be leading us. She asked for a VERY specific sign as to “Why did this happen?” She turned on the TV and at 3:27 am she was given a “what next…” answer. Carlton Sheets came on and was talking about what people have done with various real estate properties. When Deanna was pregnant with the triplets she had ordered the course and had actually used the information to invest in a couple of rental properties. A vision began to come into focus that night that would give Deanna and I some peace.
Five months after Devon had passed away, Deanna finished her 10th surgery to correct problems that had arisen due to complications from her ruptured uterus. We stopped by David’s House on our way out to drop off some donated supplies. Deanna and I were welcomed at the door. We asked the Executive Director for a few minutes of her time and talked to her. We knew that David’s House had helped hundreds of families and their children over the years. We asked if we could help David’s House by making a donation in Devon’s name. She said No. She told us that if we really wanted to make a difference there exists a critical need for a home like David’s house in Boston. She explained that when a child needed specialized heart surgery, or was awaiting a heart valve, they were transferred to Children’s Hospital in Boston. Parents would call saying that they simply could not afford to stay in Boston and be close to their child. They’d sleep in their cars, or on a chair or couch at the hospital.
We still do not have a clear picture of “why” we lost Devon, but we feel that we have a picture of “What next?” Pieces of our answer seem to fall into place: Our involvement in real estate. Our association with David’s House both through the triplets and later while Devon was with us. The heart valves that Devon gave that went on to save 2 children in Boston, and finally discovering an urgent need for a house in Boston where parents could stay and be close to their children at a critical time.
What we see as our answer is The Devon Nicole House. A foundation established to provide a home-away-from-home for the families that want to be close to the most precious gift that God can give to parents, their child. Perhaps a child, much like our little Devon Nicole. We hope to relieve the parents of the financial worry of how to afford being close to the hospital and their child. We have a dream that Devon will look down on this home, smile on the families that stay there and watch over the children in need that are close by.
Deanna and I where afraid of the size of the project that had been placed in our hearts. Neither of us had the experience to create something like The Devon Nicole House, but with a lot of work and the help and encouragement of many friends we moved forward. We poured ourselves into the project out of love for Devon. In May of 2000 we incorporated in Massachusetts as a Non-Profit organization. We created a formal business plan and assembled a wonderful Board of Trustees. We applied for and received our designation as a 501(3)c charitable organization from the IRS.
In June of 2003 we signed contracts with Children’s Hospital Boston to help renovate the 5th floor of 21 Autumn Street in Boston. One year later on June 14th 2004, we celebrated the realization of a dream. The Devon Nicole House at Children’s Hospital Boston opened their doors to patient families. Each night 13 families have a home-away-from-home while their children receive the best medical care in the world. The House is located within easy walking distance of the main entrance to Children's Hospital. Finding a home for Devon's dream has been an incredible journey, but the ride has only just begun.
With the House open, our focus now shifts to a second phase of growth. Our first priority is to continue operational support of The Devon Nicole House at Children's Hospital Boston. As our resources grow we will provide additional financial help to families through a grant program and evaluate other areas of need.
So here we are.. asking for your help. As you read this we are actively looking to expand our Board of Trustees and add to our list of incredible volunteers and DNH Friends. We are hoping to find a few people with the right hearts, connections and deep pockets to help us. If you’d like to help, please contact email@example.com or call us at (603) 594-1385.
Thomas P. Missert Deanna Missert
Devon's Dad Devon's Mom