Q&A Series ~ With Patrick and April Emrich
In 2008 Patrick and April Emrich were ready to start a family and ecstatic when April became pregnant with twins. But the overwhelming joy turned to fear and sadness when April was hospitalized. The twins — Patrick and Savannah — were born prematurely, and baby Patrick passed away just three weeks later. Although the experience has been devastating, Patrick and April have found strength by working to help prevent premature births through the March of Dimes, and they tell their story below in this latest Q&A in a series on charities that are worth your time and consideration.
Every day, babies are born too soon or very sick and start life in newborn intensive care. When doctors and nurses are focused on their little patients, the March of Dimes is there to help support families. Join March for Babies and walk for a baby you love to raise money to support programs in your community that help moms have healthy, full-term pregnancies and research to find answers to the problems that threaten our babies.
Walking into Savannah’s room in the morning when she first wakes up. She often loves to greet us both with a big smile which is a perfect start to the day. We have our own little routine as she likes to stay in bed for a good 10-15 minutes playing with her animals and rolling around.
What part of your day would you gladly give up?
The hustle and bustle of everyday life is something that I would give up in a minute. There are often times that I wish I was able to press a pause button and just freeze life. I want to enjoy watching my daughter grow up and remember all of the things that pass by so often. It is exciting to see her reach milestones but I long for the days when I could cradle her in one arm. Often times, we as a society get caught up in the next big thing or working towards the next promotion when in reality it is the small things in life that truly matter.
Tell me about your charity. Share your passion.
The March of Dimes is an organization that we discovered a little less than three years ago and one that is very near and dear to our hearts. The March of Dimes supports research into the prevention of premature birth and infant mortality which is something that we have experienced firsthand.
On November 6, 2008 and at only 31 weeks pregnant, April gave birth to boy/girl twins. Patrick weighed 1 lb. 7 oz. and Savannah weighed 2 lbs. 11 oz. They were both rushed to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit where we expected them to stay for a number of weeks and possibly months as they continued to get bigger and stronger. Even after being born 9 weeks early and as tiny as they were, neither Patrick nor Savannah showed any major issues due to their premature birth. (Notice little Patrick wearing his father’s wedding ring on his tiny arm above.) They were both treated for jaundice and Savannah had a minor bleed in her brain which ultimately resolved itself. The biggest hurdle for both Patrick and Savannah was their size which would take lots of time and food to fix. Unfortunately, 25 days after they were born, Patrick developed an intestinal condition that attacked his little body and slowly shut it down. On November 30, we held Patrick for the last time as his body was not strong enough to fight off the intestinal damage that had been done. We feel strongly that without the research that the March of Dimes has completed over the past 70 years, it is completely possible that Savannah and Patrick may not even have been born and Patrick may not have lived as long as he did.
If you could change anything you have done in your charity, what would it be?
Every year, we raise money for the annual March of Dimes March for Babies which is an event that takes place on the same day throughout the country. As honored and proud that we are to be one of the top teams in Florida, I wish that we could have a more personal impact. I wish that we could meet families that have recently experienced the birth of a premature child or the loss of an infant due to premature birth and help them walk through the challenges that they are facing. Although each circumstance may be unique, every family that has lost a child can relate in some way to each other and we would like to be able to provide a shoulder for other families to lean on.
The biggest thing that keeps me up at night right now is wondering how we are going to explain to Savannah that her twin brother did not live and that he is in heaven. We talk about him all the time and Savannah knows that he is in heaven but she really cannot grasp that concept at only 2 ½ years old. I pray that when the day comes that Savannah realizes the magnitude of what happened to Patrick, I have the right words to explain everything to her and that she does not feel guilty for living while her brother died.
Who gives you the best advice about your charity?
The Hillsborough County, Florida chapter of the March of Dimes has a great support staff and they have all been extremely helpful and generous with their time and insight.
What would you like to see happen with your charity?
In the short-term I want to continue to grow our team and our fundraising efforts on a yearly basis. Currently, we are one of the Ambassador Families for Hillsborough County, Florida and we would like to continue that role and continue to share our story at local events. A long-term goal would be for Savannah and us to be the National Ambassador Family. This prestigious position is generally a child that was saved by the March of Dimes research, programs or educational campaigns. This may be a few years down the line but would be an amazing honor.
Share a failure and a triumphant outcome to something you have faced in your life.
April was originally admitted to the hospital at 21 weeks pregnant and the doctors immediately informed us that the babies would not even be viable for another three weeks. April and I had to have faith in God’s plan, each other and the doctors in order to survive those first few grueling weeks. As it turned out we made it 10 weeks before the babies were born but those 10 weeks were certainly some of the longest weeks of our lives. I am extremely proud of the strength that April and I received from each other during that time. It could have been very easy to pull away from each other as we both grieved in our own way but it was our continuous support and love that allowed us to make it though that season of life.
If you were in charge of everything in the world for a day, what’s the first change you would make?
I would encourage everyone to open their eyes about the loss of a child which is still a taboo subject. It is a very unfortunate event but it happens every day. If you know someone who has lost a child I would encourage you to not shy away from them because you are uncomfortable, but instead embrace them and help them during their grieving process.
Every day there are needs to be met in this world and every day you have an opportunity. Find a cause, find a charity and endeavor to make a difference. You will be glad you did.
I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do. ~ Edward Everett Hale