Thursday, November 7, 2013

Leighton's Gift

My husband, Chris, and I were married on July 23, 2005.  We knew right away that we wanted to become parents, but like many people, our journey to having children was a long one. 

After years of tests, treatments, and failed domestic and international adoption applications, we were blessed to become pregnant with twins. We knew they were our miracle babies and could not wait to meet them. 

When I was a cheerleader and gymnast, my small size was an asset, but when I am pregnant, being only 4’10” becomes an issue. There just isn’t as much room – even breathing is difficult.  We both knew that carrying twins would be a hard pregnancy for me, and expected bed rest and maybe time in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

 At 24 weeks, Chris and I were planning to have a “viability” celebration. Anyone else who has had a difficult pregnancy probably knows the relief you feel when you pass that date. With the long road to pregnancy, and the added worry of my pregnancy being high-risk, passing our viability date was a milestone for us.  As if on cue, on the day of our celebration I started bleeding, and we immediately went to our hospital, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano.

I was on strict bed rest for the next few weeks, which was really difficult.  You would think it would be nice to have someone tell you to put your feet up, but all I did was worry!

We went through some false alarms, but on May 26, 2011 it became real: the babies were coming no matter what.  At 28 weeks and six days gestation, Jaxon Cohen and Leighton Sophie Taylor came into our world and forever changed it. 

Leighton and Jaxon were so tiny, but they were fighters from the beginning.

They impressed us and the doctors and nurses by reaching key milestones quickly. At only two weeks of age, they no longer needed oxygen or the continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), which helps premature babies breathe on their own. We just knew we were on our way to taking home our healthy miracles!

Unfortunately, that is not what happened. 

Our world was rocked at 12:30 a.m. on June 16, 2011 with a phone call.  Leighton had an unusually high fever for a preemie and it was quickly diagnosed as Late Onset Group B Strep (GBS). Leighton had been tested at birth for the bacteria, but it is not always detectable.

The infection took over her little body and she was in the arms of Jesus within 48 hours. 

Read more about GBS here.

Shortly after Leighton passed away, we knew that we wanted to turn the tragedy of losing our precious daughter into something positive to honor her. At her funeral, we requested that family and friends make a donation in Leighton’s name to the Texas Health Resources Foundation in lieu of flowers.

From this, the concept of Leighton’s Gift, a non-profit foundation to honor her legacy, emerged.  We weren’t sure what exactly we wanted to do, but we knew it had to be something at the NICU.  After all, it was the only home she ever knew.  It wasn’t long after we brought Jaxon home that it dawned on us what Leighton’s Gift would be. 

The rules in the NICU are strict and for good reason, these little ones are fragile and need to have limited visitors and stimulation. One of the hardest things as a family was that no one ever got to meet our sweet angel.  Even though she was only 3 weeks old, she had her own spunky personality. She always looked our way when we were there. She would kick her little foot over to us and shake it back and forth. She would “hum” (just like her twin brother) when we held her. We wish that we could have shared these things with our family. 

It was obvious to us that Leighton’s Gift needed to be a camera system in the NICU.  We quickly began telling friends and family about our idea to install cameras.  It was overwhelming how many were eager to help us raise funds to make this dream a reality.  At $3,400 each, we have a long way to go in order to reach our goal of providing all available 45 beds with a camera.

"Peek-a-Boo" camera system helps connect families via computer or smart phone 24 hours a day.
Skaggs family helps dedicate the new camera system at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano.
The last two years have been a long road, filled with both tears of joy and sorrow. Grieving for our precious Leighton has been a difficult journey, but we are so proud to have created such a beautiful legacy in her honor, all while raising Jaxon, our healthy and happy little boy.  He definitely keeps us on our toes! He loves visiting our friends in the NICU, and has to say hello to the “fishies” in the tank and count the zebras and giraffes on the wall!

We are waiting on the arrival of his little sister Olivia Sophie this December, and while we hope that she gets to come home with us right away, we know that if she is in the NICU we will be connected to her at all times through the Peek-a-Book Cameras, her sister’s gift. 

Read more about Leighton’s Gift of Peek-a-Boo Cameras here

To donate to Leighton’s Gift fund, please visit

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