About Grady's Decision

Grady's Story

On Friday, July 18th, 2008,  we went to our visit our OB due to some unusual discharge. Upon evaluation we learned that the cervix was still long and had not begun to thin and dilate. The Doctor did an FFN test which came back positive---this test predicts the possibility of pre-term labor. A positive result indicated that we had a 95+% chance of going into labor within the next two weeks. Accordingly, we were sent up to St. Vincent’s Labor & Delivery unit for shots of steroids to assist in the maturation of the babies’ lungs on both Friday and Saturday. We then had to visit the doctor on Monday for re-examination—in just 3 days the situation changed. We were now 40% effaced and the cervix was no longer closed. So—BEDREST!

On Wednesday, July 23rd my sister Kayla had just returned from her traveling nursing position in Virginia, Ryan had just left the house for a meeting at church, and my mother had just left as my father had decided to drive back from New York to take my mom out for dinner since it was their anniversary. Kayla and I were laying on my bed when she decided to go make dinner---she was out of the room 2 minutes and my water broke at 5:50 PM. We quickly called the Doctor and drove to Saint Vincent where we were rushed into a Labor & Delivery room for monitoring and evaluation. My parents and Ryan met us at the hospital within 10 minutes of our arrival. Dr. Weibel arrived and ordered a sonogram to determine the position of the babies---Baby A was head down and Baby B was transverse. He then did an internal and found that I had dilated 2 centimeters. Dr. Weibel conferred with a high-risk OB Dr. in Pittsburgh and informed us that we basically had 2 options: Option A was to take the babies by C-Section and let them battle it out in the NICU or Option B was to try and stop the labor and wait a day or two to deliver allowing more time for the babies to develop. With Option B, however, we had a high risk of the babies getting infected since my cervix was already open. So, we agreed with his opinion and decided to have the C-Section immediately. By that time, Ryan’s parents and brother Brent had arrived from DuBois—just in time for the exciting delivery!

At 10:10 PM and almost 27 weeks gestation, Gianna Kayleen entered the world with a beautiful cry weighing 2 lbs and measuring 14 inches. Her baby brother Graden Vincent quickly followed and entered the world peeing at 10:11 PM weighing 2.5 lbs and measuring 14.5 inches. Both babies were greeted with their own teams from NICU and were quickly whisked away for evaluation. Mommy spent the following hour in recovery and was then wheeled via a gurney into the NICU to get her first good look at the twins.

The following afternoon is when the excitement quickly turned to worry and fear. We were informed by the neonatologist that Grady’s lungs were not as developed as Gianna’s—he was extremely unstable and they were unable to circulate enough oxygen throughout his tiny body. They tried various ventilators and towards the evening we were given some hope that he may be turning the corner. The following day, the news was even worse and we were told it would be a long night. Our Pastor also arrived at the hospital and blessed Grady. With our family and Pastor by our side, we quickly began fervently praying for a miracle and healing.

Around midnight the neonatologist basically informed us there was not much else he could do. There was an experimental drug they could try that has not been approved by the FDA for use on preemies. Unfortunately, this drug could only be administered by a team from Pittsburgh—so, we said yes we would try it and a transport team from Magees was in flight to Erie. Ryan was given directions and was told to drive to Pittsburgh as someone would need to be there to make decisions on Grady’s condition. Thankfully, they told Ryan not to leave until the helicopter did. All this time, we remained hopeful and believed that God would heal Grady and answer the prayers of His people.

The Pittsburgh team arrived and did their own evaluation—we were then pulled in and told nothing else could be done. The experimental medication had been given and was appearing to work, however, it was too late as another head scan was completed which showed massive brain bleeds. Accordingly, we had to make the decision to let Grady go…..the most difficult and heart wrenching thing we’ve ever done in our lives. Grady was a valiant fighter----he never gave up the battle!

We were given the opportunity to spend some quality time with him prior to his passing. The nurses removed all wires and tubes except for the ventilator, dressed him and swaddled him in blankets. We were then provided the opportunity to hold, kiss his forehead, rock and tell him how much we love him. Our parents and my sister were also able to hold him as well. Not wanting to watch him suffer his final breaths, we left and allowed his amazing nurses to rock him to sleep. Graden Vincent Smith left to be with his Heavenly Father at 3:24 AM on July 26th.

Words cannot even begin to describe the heartache and grief you experience through the loss of a child. We went through all of the emotions: why, how could this happen, how do you go on from here, why didn’t God answer our prayers for a miracle, etc. Yet we had to continue on as we still have a beautiful baby daughter fighting for her life—this was the reason we must get up and put one foot in front of the other. Part of us was afraid to get too attached to her as we were fearful we’d be right back in the same situation a week from now—burying another child. We knew we needed to get rid of this negative mindset but since God didn’t heal Grady we were questioning if he would even save our baby girl. Ultimately, we have to remain positive and continue to trust that God is not going to give us more than we can handle. We continue to rely on Him for continued healing and development of Gianna and to help us get through the void we feel of losing Grady.

We were discharged from the hospital on Sunday, July 27th which was difficult. Not only were we leaving the hospital without our children, we then had to drive around and pick out a cemetery, then had to return home to a house that was ready for two babies. Monday we had to finalize funeral arrangements and also choose a burial plot---something we never dreamt would be even possible.

Tuesday, July 29th, we visited Gianna in the hospital and prepared ourselves for the reality of what the afternoon had to hold. We had a small, beautiful family funeral service which was filled with tremendous reflection and anointing. Our Pastor Al Detter from Grace Church and our Pastor from our DuBois church that married us, Dave Bish, participated in the service. It was extremely special and helped us begin the healing process. In addition, our worship leader Brian Lusky sang an absolutely touching song which he has agreed to record for us onto CDs. Grady has been laid to rest in Wintergreen Gorge Cemetery in Harborcreek.

After Grady’s passing, Gianna’s condition steadily grew worse; until she was life flighted to Pittsburgh.  At Magee’s hospital in Pittsburgh, we witnessed what we can only describe as a modern day miracle!  Gianna’s condition was so bad that the doctors did not give us much hope for her survivability.  But God had other plans, and miraculously healed her there.  She spent a total of 71 days in the NICU, 35 of them in Pittsburgh.  And today she is thriving and is doing very well.  A year after Grady’s passing, we conceived again, and God blessed us with a baby boy named Gunnar, which he has healed many wounds.

Throughout this tribulation, we have felt the many prayers that have been said for us. We have enjoyed the text messages, cards and phone messages that have let us know you have been thinking about us. And we appreciate the times some of you have hugged us and said you’re sorry. All of those outpouring acts of love have helped our healing process. It has been nice to know we have so many of you are on our side.

Many of you have said to us, “If there is anything we can do, just let us know.” After Grady’s passing, we have felt God leading us, and opening the doors in a direction that will honor Grady’s death.   To honor our son, we have decided to start a non-profit organization, called Grady’s Decision.  This organization was created to help families who would go through similar experiences that we went through.  We felt we could love families the same way we felt loved during our most difficult time.  To date, Grady’s decision has helped countless families and babies navigate the NICU life.  We provide emotional, spiritual and financial support while the baby is in the NICU.  The families we help, we will share these stories through our website and on our facebook page.

Thanks for your support of Grady's Decision,

Ryan & Katrina Smith