Top Row (l-r) Dan Ritchey, Jake Ritchey
David and Brenda Judkins, Alex Ritchey, Laurie Ritchey, Tracey Ritchey
Matt, Mindy, and Cooper Ritchey, Larissa and Scott Norris
Madison Norris, Carly Ritchey, Brayden Ritchey, Gavin Norris
THE REST OF THE STORY:
Since posting this picture of my family, I have been asked about the circumstances of so many family members being together for the picture. When I asked my wife, Laurie, for a photo of the whole family, the only recent photo she could find was the photo taken at the First United Methodist Church in Blytheville on the occasion of our fifth grandchild’s baptism.
Our grandson, Cooper, was born prematurely, on November 30, 2012, at UAMS in Little Rock. He weighed one pound 14 ounces, and remained in the Neonatal ICU at UAMS for over four months. Anyone who has dealt with premature births knows that the journey is a roller coaster ride that keeps you on the edge of your seat and on your knees in prayer. There were days when we worried that Cooper wouldn’t survive, and other days when we were certain he’d be home soon.
Cooper, Nov. 2012
Cooper was in the incubator for several months and was fed through a feeding tube for about three months. Until a week before he was sent home from the hospital, his breathing was controlled by an oscillator or a ventilator. He had needles all over his body, which had to be moved frequently. He was taken by helicopter to Children’s Hospital in Little Rock for heart surgery before he was a month old. Cooper’s days could quickly go from great to bad, and we never knew what to expect.
Cooper’s older sisters, Carly and Brayden, were amazingly concerned and loving about their new brother, and they were understanding about their parents’ frequent absences while they traveled back-and-forth between Little Rock and Blytheville.
Carly and Cooper
Brayden and Cooper
Our son, Matthew, and his wife, Mindy, amazed us with their strength and courage. Cooper had to be their priority, but they made sure that their daughters had their time and attention as much as possible.
Cooper, Matthew, Mindy, Carly, Brayden, and their dog, Scout
Our daughter, Larissa, her husband Scott, and their children, Madison and Gavin, quickly fell in love with Cooper and helped in any way they could.
I can’t say enough good things about UAMS and the staff in the NICU. Cooper had a private room, and his parents and sisters were able to visit him at any time. When Cooper was in the incubator, we were able to watch him at any time of the day or night, via a web cam. Some of it wasn’t easy to watch, but we were so grateful to have that connection with our new grandson. Even when Cooper was having a bad day, the NICU staff were amazed at how well he was doing. We came to know and love that staff in the NICU, and I think they came to know and love Cooper and his family.
It was humbling to know that there were so many people, in our community and around the country, praying for our little grandson right along with us. One day, a nurse in the NICU remarked to our son, “I don’t know who you’ve got praying for this little guy, but tell them to keep it up, because they are doing a great job.”
I don’t know why we were blessed with the miracle of Cooper, but I can tell you that, as much of a blessing as all of our grandchildren are, the miracle of our blessings are even more evident when we look at Cooper. This has been a life-changing year for all of our family.
Cooper still has many medical appointments in Little Rock and with his Pediatrician in Paragould, and a therapist works with him in his home. Cooper is now a healthy 18 pound, 14 month old, who, according to his medical care providers, has good skill levels for his age. Even now, it is hard to look at Cooper, or hold him in our arms, without thinking of all of the trauma he experienced and of the miracle of his life. He is truly a blessing to all of us.
Cooper, Jan. 2014
In the United Methodist Church, infants are baptized. The baptism is an affirmation, by the parents and the church congregation, that this child will be raised to know God. Cooper’s baptism was delayed by his health, but it was a joyous day for our family, and our church family, who had continually prayed for him, when we were able to watch Dr. Robin baptize him. We are so blessed that many of our family members could share this very special occasion with us.