By KENNY KEANE, Globe staff reporter
Posted March 27, 2002
In attempting to describe the story of her son John Paul's survival from a
premature birth, Julie Keane, a parishioner at Blessed Sacrament Church in Sioux
City, characterized it as a story of life - a story of pro-life.
John Paul, named after the pope, was born to Julie and her husband Kevin on
Oct. 22, 1999, at St. Joseph's Hospital in Omaha, Neb., in the 26th week of
gestation, nearly four months premature. He weighed only one pound, eight ounces
and was 13 and a quarter inches long.
"At that time we had a lot of pastoral counseling," Kevin said.
"We talked to a couple different priests because it was very, very early.
We talked about the issue of morbidity, which are disability issues.
"He was so small that we didn't have much hope of survival. We had made
a decision to not use any extraordinary means to keep him living because we
didn't know. He could have been dead coming out."
Kevin said about an hour after John Paul was born, the doctor called and
said, "I'm not trying to change your mind, but he could keep living."
So the couple approved to have him taken into the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)
at the hospital, where he resided for a little over three months.
"He had all kinds of typical problems that many babies prematurely born
have," Kevin said. "He had an eye problem and a chronic lung disease.
He had blood transfusions, pneumonia and different complications that came up.
During that time you become much more appreciative of medicine, of medical
technology, of doctors and nurses and the people that do that work."
The Keanes went down to Omaha every weekend to visit their son during his
time in the NICU. Julie said it was very difficult, particularly in the early
stages when everyday they were hearing John Paul faced an 80 percent change of
retardation, cerebral palsy or of being blind or deaf. She said the whole
experience was a journey of faith.
"If you don't have faith I don't know how you could get through
it," Julie said. "I immediately called everyone who is part of our
faith community - everyone at Blessed Sacrament, people who I work with and
people from my hometown of Kingsley. The Carmelites were instrumental. The
sisters at the Carmelite Monastery put little John Paul's picture on their
altar, and he was there for all four months.
"If it wasn't for the prayers and the support of the community, there
was no way we would have been able to make it through, and I firmly believe he
wouldn't be here today. You're just not supposed to make it when you're born
A month before his actual due date, John Paul was at home with his parents
and older brother Joseph. He was on oxygen, had a heart monitor and went on a
feeding tube a couple months later.
Aside from occasional problems with eating, John Paul has been able to enjoy
a normal childhood.
Along with their faith and the prayerful support of the community, the Keanes
also credit the March of Dimes for the role they played in their son's survival.
"They fund everything in the NICU - from the feeding tubes to the
machines for breathing," Julie said. "All of the machines that help
sustain their life is funded by the March of Dimes. That's their main crusade -
to help fight premature birth."
Most recently, representatives from the March of Dimes who knew Julie and had
heard her son's story contacted the Keanes to let them know that they had chosen
John Paul as the Ambassador Child for March of Dimes WalkAmerica 2003, which
will be held April 26 at the Anderson Dance Pavilion in Sioux City.
"To the extent that people can try to help participate and raise some
money for this worthy cause, it'd make sense to do it," Kevin said.
"Julie and I are very thankful for all of the people within Sioux City and
the Kingsley area who were praying and gave their support. It was just