On Sept. 22, 2018, Ryder Lucas Barnett was delivered at William Beaumont Army Medical Center. His passing was part of the one in four pregnancies that end in loss in the United States.
It’s estimated that 19 percent of the adult population has experienced the death of a child (this includes miscarriages through adult-aged children). After the loss of Ryder, Kelsey and Capt. Hunter Barnett knew they had to do something to memorialize their son.
“Ever since I lost him I’ve told myself, through my faith, family, friends, and everyone here at WBAMC who helped me, I’m going to use my pain to help others,” said Kelsey, a National Guard veteran. “It definitely helps to use my pain to help someone else.”
Since September, the Barnetts have fundraised and donated multiple casting kits for use with fetal demises. Still the couple wanted to do more for the staff who helped them get through their difficult loss, so they partnered with a nonprofit organization to donate a cooling device, which dons a placard memorializing Ryder, designed to prolong parents’ time with babies who suffer fetal demise.
Because of their size, decomposition begins quickly in infants, reducing the time available for parents to spend with them. The Barnetts’ gift to WBAMC cools and preserves the body longer, allowing parents to spend more time with them.
“If that piece of equipment gets used it means someone has lost a child,” said Hunter, an operations officer with the 72nd Military Police Detachment, 93rd Military Police Battalion, at Fort Bliss, Texas. “One of the first things me and my wife talked about when (Ryder passed) was, it doesn’t matter if it happens at 20, 14, or 35 weeks; it’s still your daughter or son. They had a name, they had a life you expected them to have, then all that’s gone in an instant. I hope this equipment never gets used.”
Fourteen weeks into her pregnancy, Kelsey’s doctor found it difficult to hear a heartbeat when performing an ultrasound. Further examination revealed her baby had passed.
“I knew something was wrong because it was just really still. The worst words I have ever heard were, ‘there’s no heart beat’,” said the 24-year-old mother of three. “You feel like you’re stuck in place in the world, there’s no words to describe how it feels to hear that you’re baby has no heartbeat.”
Hours later, Ryder was delivered after 14 weeks, 2 days of pregnancy.
“When I got here, on the day I had Ryder, the staff took me to a back room,” said Kelsey. “For someone going through that, you don’t want to hear baby’s crying and the staff respected that they honored my wishes about that. From the time I got here until I had Ryder and we left, I always had someone checking on me, staying with me, praying with me. I’m very thankful I had the nurses here at WBAMC to help me.”
While there is no prescribed method of grieving after a loss, according to studies by the device manufacturer, families can handle infant loss better if they are able to spend more time with their baby.
“(The device) could have at least added a few more hours with him,” said Kelsey.
“Fort Bliss has been home for three and a half years, we had two children born in this hospital. So it really means a lot to be able to give back to our community, to the hospital where our children were born,” said Hunter, 25, native of Prosperity, South Carolina. “One of the things they focus on in the military is servant leadership, (the donation) is Kelsey and my way of doing that. I’m proud of her for coming up with this. She channeled everything she’s feeling into something good, that’s how I think everyone should handle bad experiences.”
William Beaumont Army Medical Center is the first Military Treatment Facility in the Department of Defense to receive the device, according to the device manufacturer.
The device was donated on April 30, 2019.