Family finally under one roof
After five trying weeks at West Virginia University Children's Hospital in Morgantown, Megan and Jon Keeney finally were able to bring their newborn son to his St. Albans home.
Still readjusting to life back at home, Megan slowly rocked baby Jaxon back and forth in her arms Sunday. They had arrived home on Thursday.
"Look at those little eyes," Megan smiled as Jaxon looked curiously at her, squirming and flailing his arms.
"I love it. That whole first night we came home, I sat up and just stared at him because I was like, 'Wow . . . this is amazing.' "
Jaxon Lucas Keeney was born at 4:13 p.m. June 7, a Thursday.
Jon had been on active duty in Afghanistan with the U.S. Army's 305th MP unit out of Wheeling for the duration of his wife's pregnancy but was expecting to return home for his son's birth.
Jon faced numerous delays in his efforts to return home in time and was finally told he would be stuck in Germany one week before his son was to be born.
That's when his family summoned the help of Sens. Joe Manchin and Jay Rockefeller, both D-W.Va., and Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., who pleaded with the Pentagon to get him on the next available flight to the United States.
The couple's reunion was a fairy tale moment, but Megan and Jon knew Jaxon's birth and the following days and weeks would not be as picture-perfect.
"His pulmonary artery and aorta were backwards," Jon explained. "They had to cut him open and switch them back. After that, his chest was left open for a few days, and they had to put chest tubes on him for drainage."
Jaxon suffered from a condition called transposition of the great arteries, or TGA. According to an article in the Orphanet Journal of Rare Diseases, the disease affects 1 in 3,500 to 5,000 live births.
The condition causes oxygenated blood to circulate back to affected babies' lungs and deoxygenated blood to circulate elsewhere in their bodies.
Jaxon had to undergo open-heart surgery within days of his birth. Dr. Robert A. Gustafson, Division Chief of pediatric cardiothoracic surgery at the Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center School of Medicine, successfully repaired the infant's delicate heart.
"He's a strong little guy," Megan said. "I got released two days after I had him. But it was the hardest thing to leave him because he had to stay."
Jaxon had to fight for his life throughout his five-week hospital stay. He weighed 6 pounds 4 ounces at birth but dropped to 4 pounds 8 ounces at one point. He was placed on a ventilator twice and had to learn to eat again once he was taken off the ventilator a second time.
"There was one week where he kind of had a bad week, when he had to go back on the ventilator and everything, but other than that the doctors said he did very well in recovery," Jon said.
Jaxon's extended stay took a toll on Jon and Megan, who anxiously visited him every day.
"I got my days mixed up," Megan said. "I didn't even know what day it was because we spent so much time in the hospital. It would make you exhausted because you're just sitting. When you're not doing anything, you're getting really tired. It was hard, but it's worth it."
The Keeneys were showered with support throughout Jaxon's hospitalization. They stayed in a studio apartment in the Morgantown home of Megan's brother, and many family members made the drive from the Charleston area to visit.
Jon said the hospital staff also became attached to his son.
"The nurses loved him," the father recalled.
"He was a flirt," Megan laughed. "I think at night he wanted us to leave so he could flirt with all the night nurses."
"The children's hospital up there is just fantastic," Jon said. "The nurses were all good. Even if they weren't working with him for that day, if they were walking by, they would stop and see him and make sure he was doing OK."
Luckily for the Keeneys, Jon's military insurance will cover the hospital expenses they have incurred over the last five weeks.
"I'm still technically on active orders until the beginning of August, so we're still covered under military right now," Jon said. "Then it will switch back to my civilian job. The military active duty covers everything, pretty much. I guess it had to have been a blessing in disguise."
Over the past weekend, Jon and Megan have finally been able to enjoy the simple pleasures of parenthood away from the hospital. Jaxon will have monthly checkups with his doctor and will have annual checkups after the first year, but Jon said he is expected to be "like a normal child."
"I love it," Megan said, looking down at the baby in her arms. "We don't have to worry about wires and stuff when we're picking him up."
"And we can walk around with him finally and not have to sit there," Jon added. "He was hooked up to a lot of stuff.
"It's been nice the past couple of days just being able to stay here with him and Megan and just kind of get into a new routine with the baby," Jon said. "Just being back home and getting everything figured out where I left off when I had to leave.
"And cutting grass - it's way overdue," Jon laughed.