May 9, 2023 at 8:01 p.m.
Henry’s Heroes Walk June 3 to benefit NICU families
Gina Lomheim has built a special bond with her son, Henry.
He was born Oct. 13, 2022, at 26 weeks gestation, weighing 2 pounds 7.5 ounces, and spent 87 days in the St. Cloud Hospital neonatal intensive care unit, with Gina by his side daily, often accompanied by his dad, Kris.
“That is something no one will ever be able to take from me, the time I spent holding, praying, singing and crying with Henry,” Gina said May 3, from the Farming Township home where she and Kris are also raising Harrison, 5, and Madelyn, 3.
Today, Henry is a happy – and healthy – chubby-cheeked, seven-month-old boy who loves to interact with his siblings. He has come a long way since he let out a few squeaks when he entered this world as a micro-preemie before his Jan. 13, 2023, due date.
Gina had a normal pregnancy up until 25 weeks, when she experienced pain on her right side. Working at the St. Cloud Surgical Center, where she is a registered nurse, she ended up in the St. Cloud Hospital where it was determined she needed her appendix removed. She contacted Kris, a Melrose Electricelectrician. Her appendix was removed Oct. 5, 2022, and the plan was for Gina to remain in the hospital until their unborn baby was 34 weeks gestation. A complication from surgery led to her water breaking, and Henry was born at 26 weeks by cesarean section.
“We had two children and two miscarriages in 2020, and we were reliving that trauma again. Are we going to lose this baby, but we didn’t,” she said.
A faith-filled family, the Lomheims knew God had a plan for their family.
Before the C-section, Gina asked everyone in the operating room to pray. They all held hands – Gina and Kris and the surgical and NICU teams.
“We prayed the ‘Our Father,’ and ‘Hail Mary,’” she said. “You could have heard a pin drop.”
Henry was born with preemie-related issues, like underdeveloped lungs. He was intubated, had intravenous lines into his umbilical cord and was on oxygen.
Gina was assisted by 10 NICU staff when she held him for the first time eight days after his birth.
“I got to hold him for an hour, and he was settling in like he knew that’s where he was supposed to be, just him and me,” she said.
Kris waited until the umbilical cord IVs were removed before holding Henry.
“It was very, very emotional,” Gina said.
Gina drove back and forth to the hospital daily, so she could help care for Harrison and Madelyn, while Kris returned to work.
“The nurse told me, ‘Henry is being taken care of here, and you need to be a mom for your other children,’” Gina said, adding, “My heart was in two places.”
One of Henry’s NICU doctors explained what to expect with a preemie.
“He said, ‘When you pray, pray for something intentional and specific. Pray for Henry’s eyes to develop. Pray for his brain to not have any bleeds. Pray for his lungs to develop and for his pneumonia to heal,’” Gina said. “Every week I would ask him if Henry met those milestones, and I’d say I needed more to pray for. I took that and when people would ask what they could do, I would ask them to pray for those intentions.”
Henry overcame pneumonia, his respiratory episodes ceased, and his heart rate stopped decreasing. On Dec. 21, 2022, he drank his first bottle of milk, which was a “huge milestone,” Gina said.
Through it all, this young family leaned on their family, friends and faith.
“Henry had so many people praying for him,” Gina said.
Henry had a picture of Mary (Our Lady of Soufanieh) and Jesus in his NICU hospital room.
“The picture was blessed by a priest and has been in the presence of eight individuals going through a complicated medical journey,” Gina said. “All of these individuals overcame their complex medical issue and are living miracles.”
Gina went to church the morning of Jan. 8, the feast of the Epiphany, and the day Henry was discharged. The fitting final song was “Go Tell It On The Mountain,” and Gina was ready to tell everyone that Henry was coming home that day.
The Lomheims began their life as a family of five.
“Our older kids took this seriously. There were lots of rules, like not touching Henry’s face or hands, but they could kiss his feet, his tummy,” Gina said. “Because of the possibility of germs, there was lots of hand washing.”
Henry has thrived at home, reaching more milestones. He smiles, rolls over, sleeps through the night and is an easy-going, happy baby.
The end of March Gina returned to work, and recently Henry joined his sister at their day care.
There are continued medical follow-ups with their family physician in Albany. Henry made it through a respiratory syncytial virus Infection, an indication that his lungs are strong. His weight is up to 15 pounds; Gina calls him “Porkchop.”
Through the Albany Area School District, a Help Me Grow program staff member visits their home monthly to assess how Henry is doing and give them tips and tricks on meeting his milestones.
The Lomheims are grateful for the support they have received throughout Henry’s journey.
They are excited to host the first annual Henry’s Heroes Walk June 3, a 2.5 mile walk around St. Martin. It was an idea Gina came up with after meeting other moms in the NICU.
“We had so much support from friends, family and co-workers, and there were other moms who had no external help,” she said. “Now that I’ve been through this, I can understand what a NICU family needs while on this journey.”
Henry’s Heroes was established as a nonprofit to give back to NICU families in central Minnesota. Joining Gina with her vision are board members Vicki Burg, Rachel Burg, Danielle Atkinson and Rachel Tschida.
“I’m super excited to have over 500 registered for the walk,” Gina said. “A lot of the NICU nurses are coming to the walk and will get to see NICU babies they took care of, so it will be amazing. ”
Close to 60 posters of NICU babies will line the route – in honor of or in memory of NICU babies.
“Henry won’t remember his days in the NICU, but he will always remember the heroes who saved him, who loved him when we couldn’t be there, who held him when he cried, who rocked and sang to him, because without them we wouldn’t be holding out little miracle today,” Gina said.
She said it would have been easy to go down the “why me” route after Henry was delivered early, but they wanted to turn something negative into something positive.
“I never want Henry to feel sorry for himself for what happened to him,” she said. “I always want him to believe that he can overcome anything in life, and to take chances because every day is a gift.”
Mother’s Day weekend 2022 is when Gina found out she was pregnant. This Mother’s Day she is thankful to be the mother of three children.
“I’m so excited to have three babies under one roof,” Gina said, “and to embrace the chaos three children bring to my life.”
Those baby bonds are forever.