Born at 27 weeks, Nathaniel was not expected to live. Now he’s about to turn one and is inviting the masses to his birthday party—all in an effort to help support other families who start their children’s lives in the NICU.
Baby Nathaniel’s parents, Stephanie and Gregory Palmer, stood in faith that their son would defy every odd and not only live but thrive. Armed with faith and a hashtag #NathanielThrives, they launched a prayer campaign among family and friends. As Stephanie told Live Action News in February:
I’m pro-life no matter what. I always strongly believed that every child is created on purpose for a purpose. That even those born in difficult circumstances are destined to be here and they are the brightness in a dark situation. Nathaniel only proved to me further that abortion is murder. He was born at 27.6 weeks and had a complete body. He would have been doing great if he had not been born with non-immune Hydrops but here he is at 40 weeks 5 days [January 30] gestation and he’s thriving and plumping up! He is indeed destined for greatness beyond my comprehension!
Now a bit of that destined greatness is coming forth in his giant birthday party, an event called Strive2Thrive, which will help other families as they contend for their children to thrive in the NICU.
Stephanie gave Live Action News more details on the event:
Our fundraiser is called Strive2Thrive. It’s a 2 mile Super Hero fun run/walk to raise funds for Caiden’s Hope Foundation. They’re a non-profit organization that helps NICU families pay for gasoline, food, and lodging so they can visit their sick babies every day while in NICU!
Strive2Thrive will take place on October 29 at 9:30 a.m. in Marion, Texas, where there will be “a rose memorial for all the babies who left too soon.” That will be followed by the run at 10 a.m. “We plan to have music, dancing, food, and a brief talk about why we’re doing it all,” Stephanie says.
The reason the Palmers chose to use their son’s first birthday as a fundraiser for other parents facing long-term NICU care is simple:
Nathaniel was born very sick and almost died but as you know, he thrived and still thrives! But the journey was far from easy on us emotionally and financially. We spent an average of $80 a week on gas and food to see our son every day, and we only lived an hour away. We had a lot of help but not everyone has that help from friends and family. We want to do whatever we can to lighten the load on stressed NICU parents. We saw so many parents who could only visit on weekends because they lived hours away from the hospital. Some had to return to work while their babies were still in NICU. Even my dear husband spent so much time away from Nathaniel (at school, work and watching our other kids) so I could be there as long as I wanted to breastfeed and kangaroo care [skin to skin bonding time that is proven to increase the health and wellness of sick children] with Nathaniel. He saw Nathaniel in November and then not again until December and didn’t even recognize him.
But while Stephanie got to be with her son frequently, she says:
Not every family is this fortunate. We witnessed many babies left without kangaroo care. Some parents lived so far away they could only visit their baby on the weekends or once every few weeks! We want to help so much. Our hope is to one day open a daycare center funded by donations to offer free childcare to NICU parents for their other children (those not allowed to enter the NICU).
Even without the fundraiser, Nathaniel’s birthday would be a monumental event. Stephanie says he’s a very happy baby who is doing “things we never imagined he would do when we saw him after birth. He was so sick and fragile. He was dying! Now he’s more than surviving! He’s thriving, growing, and finding joy in life! His laughter brings us so much joy! A preemie’s laugh heals the soul!”
The Palmers want other parents of babies born with special medical needs to enjoy their son or daughter’s healing laugh, to thrive as chidlren should. Stephanie told Live Action News:
The reason we don’t give up is because God never gave up. Nathaniel never gave up. Our victory didn’t begin when Nathaniel came home! That was Nathaniel’s victory … Our victory began the day they told us they’d done all they could medically and he wasn’t responding well to treatment. The day they told us not to get our hopes up. That’s an odd day to pick and say “victorious” – but that’s the day we had to choose between giving up hope and listening to the what ifs and the maybes and statistics… or choose to get our hopes up, claim victory, have bold and unapologetic faith!!! That’s the day we changed forever and there’s no going back. Once you’ve experienced God and faith that way… you can never return to sit on the fence, you’ve leaped over into the green pastures of faith.
Now that faith has expanded for other children in similar situations. Stephanie told Live Action News:
We had to strive to stay in faith and never give up while Nathaniel strived to survive. As the days went on we realized he was surviving and thriving!!! Even now (at 8 months old / 5 months adjusted) Nathaniel’s developmental pediatrician said, “Nathaniel is developmentally 4 months old but have hope because if we looked only at his brain scans I would say this child shouldn’t be doing anything and many others like him do not.”
Stephanie hopes that Strive2Thrive will be a catalyst to creating hope for many others in situations like they faced. She is convinced that there is always hope, even when medical experts and others say there is not. “God is good and never fails!” she says. And her proof is her arms every day as she holds her miracle baby that medical experts said would not even live.
Visit Nathaniel’s Strive2Thrive GoFundMe page.
Register for the Strive2Thrive Superhero Run.