LITTLETON, Colo. — For Justina and Dan Oldehoff, the week marking the second birthday of the premature baby they lost four days after his birth is a hard one. It's a reminder of the gaping hole in their lives, but also the hope they've found despite it.
"It has been the one thing that has helped me put one foot in front of the other every day," Justina said.
Two years ago, the Oldehoffs gave birth prematurely to their first son, Carter. At just 24 weeks, the tiny baby fought for his life in Littleton Adventist Hospital's NICU.
"He was just over a pound and a half — it took my breath away to see him," Dan said.
Sadly, Carter died nearly four days later.
"I wanted to do something to help others that are going through this unexpected NICU journey and going through the loss and their support systems," Justina said.
The couple launched Carter's Cause to support other families going through the painful journey of premature birth and loss. On the week of what would've been Carter's second birthday, the Oldehoffs are donating 250 NICU care packages to Littleton Adventist Hospital. Each package has a bonding heart, journal, milestone cards and affirmation cards.
"We want to give a sense of hope because truly, no matter what the journey looks like, you have to have hope," Justina said.
Neonatal nurse practitioner Maegan Nelson, who helped care for Carter, said parents don't always talk about the difficulties of having a newborn in the NICU.
"They have just found a great way of honoring Carter and really letting his legacy live on," she said.
Today, the Oldehoffs have a new reason to smile. Their second son, also born prematurely, is now a healthy and spirited toddler. While nothing will bring back their sweet Carter, helping other NICU families has given the Oldehoffs a path forward and a new appreciation for every moment.
"Every day, every phone call, every moment can change the trajectory of your life. So try to be kind and enjoy it," Dan said.
Molly Hendrickson anchors Denver7 in the mornings from 4:30-7 a.m. She also features a different 7Everyday Hero each week on Denver7. Follow Molly on Facebook here and Twitter here. To nominate a hero in your life, click here.