While all new parents gain an appreciation for the miracle of life when they finally meet their newborn child for the first time, parents who struggled to conceive know all too well just how fragile that life can be.
After going through multiple rounds of fertility treatments, an Iowa couple were overjoyed when they finally became parents to a beautiful, healthy baby girl. For weeks, the couple barely left the safety of their home to ensure no harm came to their miracle baby. Tragically, when they finally ventured out for the first time, their worst fear came true…
A Miracle Baby
After struggling to conceive, new parents Kassy and Lee Hovenga were overjoyed when they finally gave birth to their first child. Because of how hard it was for the Iowa couple to conceive, they knew better than most how precious life is and vowed to do everything to give their baby girl a good life and keep her safe.
7 Weeks Of Hibernation
For the first 7 weeks of baby McKenna’s life, Kassy and Lee kept their newborn mostly in the safety of their home and only ventured out with her to go to doctor appointments, visit nearby family, and stop at the grocery store quickly…
The First Outing
After 7 weeks, however, Kassy and Lee thought it was about time they take McKenna for a real outing and figured Lee’s recreational softball tournament in Waverly, Iowa would be a perfectly safe place to bring their daughter.
Enjoying The Weather
“It had been an abnormally cold and snowy spring in Iowa, with snow as late as the end of April and it was a great evening of warm weather to finally escape the confines of the house,” said Laura Heise, McKenna’s great aunt…
A Safe Spot
While Lee was out on the field playing in the tournament on May 2, 2018, Kassy found a spot to sit on the bleachers behind a fence beside the third baseline. At the time, she thought it would be the perfect spot to safely watch the game with her 7-week-old.
Time For A Feeding
After Lee’s game finished up, another pair of teams started a new game and Lee made his way over to the bleachers to sit with his family. “Another pair of teams were playing and Lee was helping Kassy get situated with a blanket over her, so Kassy could breastfeed,” Laura said…
Too Focused For Their Own Good
As Lee was focused on helping his wife stay covered while she breastfed their daughter, Kassy was absorbed with the task of feeding McKenna in public, which she was still getting used to as a first-time mom. Unfortunately, the couple was so focused on what they were doing that they didn’t realize what had happened on the field.
A Freak Accident
“At the moment my Daddy turned away from the field to help my Momma cover-up, the second baseman threw the ball to the third baseman to try to get the runner out,” Laura wrote in a blog post in McKenna’s voice. “The third baseman lost sight of the ball and the ball went past him, hit the fence and popped over the railing…”
The ball was headed straight for Kassy and the baby and neither Lee nor Kassy had any idea. Seconds later, the softball hit Kassy in the bicep. At first, Kassy and Lee were relieved as they thought McKenna hadn’t been hit by the ball.
A Devastating Realization
“The ball came over the fence – and either hit McKenna first or hit Kassy first. We’re really not sure as it happened so fast and Kassy was looking down at McKenna as she was feeding,” said Laura. “McKenna didn’t begin to scream until a few seconds afterward…”
“They were unaware that she was even hit until the large lump formed. It happened that fast,” Laura explained. As soon as the couple realized what happened, they rushed McKenna to a nearby health center, where scans revealed the 7-week-old had a skull fracture and 2 brain bleeds.
McKenna was then airlifted to St. Mary’s Hospital at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota as she had started experiencing violent seizures. Once at the hospital, doctors fought to get the seizures under control and treat the damage to her brain…
Stopping The Seizures
Doctors placed McKenna on anti-seizure medications and then got to work treating the fracture and brain bleeds. The team of doctors treating the infant also dimmed the lights in the room and limited the amount of time she was touched to try and get the seizures to stop.
2 Days Later
Ultimately, the team was forced to put McKenna on a ventilator and put her into a ‘deep coma’ to allow her body to heal. On May 4, doctors took more scans and found that 1 of the bleeds in her brain had gotten bigger, which was not a good sign…
A Crushing Diagnosis
McKenna was given a blood transfusion and doctors explained that she may have sustained brain damage from the hit but it was still too early to tell. Kassy and Lee were absolutely devastated. “Lee and Kassy went through three rounds of [fertility treatment] to have McKenna,” Laura said. “This has been especially crushing to them.”
Over the next few weeks, Kassy and Lee tried to remain positive that McKenna would recover or at least show signs of improvement. About 20 days after the accident, their prayers were finally answered. McKenna woke up from the induced coma and started showing signs of significant improvement…
Signs Of Improvement
“She definitely has more awake periods and her eyes are wide open. She tracks Kassy’s face and voice,” said Laura, who also explained that McKenna was moving her legs and having bowel movements. “Her status is constantly changing,” Kassy and Lee said. “Our little McKenna is a fighter, and we are hopeful she will continue to fight to overcome this.”
40 Days Later
Eventually, McKenna was taken off the ventilator and was weaned off all the medications she was being given to prevent seizures and help her recover. After 40 days in the hospital, McKenna wasn’t having any trouble breathing on her own and hadn’t had any new seizures so doctors told Kassy and Lee they could finally bring their baby girl home again…
The Recovery Continues
McKenna is now safely back home in Iowa with her parents as she continues to recover. However, because the areas of the brain that were damaged are areas related to motor skills and development, doctors warned that they won’t be able to tell if she’s sustained any permanent brain damage until later on in her recovery.
Never Losing Hope
For now, Kassy and Lee are happy McKenna is finally at home and are staying hopeful that she will make a full recovery. The couple is also thanking anyone who has offered words of support or donated money to their YouCaring page to help with current and future medical bills. “We are so thankful and deeply moved by the generous support and the uplifting messages that we are receiving from friends, family and those we do not know, but now consider our friends,” they said. “At this time, we are uncertain what the outcome of this will be. We have to take everything that is happening hour by hour.”