Mother's Milk: Abundance of Breast Milk Becomes a Gift from One Mom to Another
Garrett Jacobs smiles up at grandfather Bill Jacobs while "grandpa" captures the moment.

ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Rock Island, Ill. - Garrett Jacobs was born on April 30, in St. Francis Medical Center, Peoria, Ill., with VACTERL syndrome. Garrett Jacobs is the son of Adam and Stephanie Jacobs, and the grandson of Bill Jacobs (who has more than 29 years with TACOM-Rock Island on Rock Island Arsenal) and Marcia Jacobs, and Tom and Dee Daily. They are all longtime residents native to the Quad City area. Adam is a journeyman carpenter; Stephanie left her position as a preschool teacher at a local daycare to care for Garrett.

VACTERL is an acronym for the various abnormalities associated with the syndrome. Garrett has spina bifida, cardiac, rectal, and renal malformations and a missing radius in his left forearm. He has had surgeries to repair his back and heart. Garrett also has a shunt to drain excess fluid from his brain and a colostomy. His parents switched from breast milk to formula after Stephanie stopped producing her own milk during Garrett's prolonged hospital stay.

But, fortunately for Garrett, Kristi VerHeecke of Woodhull, Ill., decided to offer her excess supply of breast milk to Garrett's mother and father. Kristi had never expected to feed more than one baby with her breast milk when her son Chase was born in early March 2010. Her supply of milk was more than adequate for Chase, however, and she soon ran out of freezer space for his milk, the 35-year-old working mom said. Bottles of frozen breast milk started squeezing out the frozen foods at home and at her mother's house.

Her options, especially after a bout of flu, were to stop nursing altogether and use up what she had stored or to donate the milk to another baby in need. That's when Kristi decided to offer her breast milk for Garrett. Unsure how receptive the Jacobs's would be, the VerHeeckes invited the family to dinner last summer and delicately offered their gift if it was wanted.

"We were so excited" with the offer, Stephanie said. Stephanie remembers saying, "You would do that for me'"

The donated breast milk helped cut down on the family's mounting expenses for Garrett and provided him the perfect food. The families arranged a milk run every week, meeting halfway between Woodhull and Orion, Ill., and filling a beverage cooler with the stored human milk. Research indicates that human milk is the perfect food for infants. Infants on breast milk tend to have fewer ear infections, fewer rashes and allergies, less diarrhea and lower hospital admissions rates, according to the Mother's Milk Bank page on the University of Iowa Health Care Web site. As a result of Kristi's help, Garrett has grown strong quickly and has responded well to the therapies. He can sit and hold his head up for short periods of time like many children his age. Frequent visits to Peoria are needed for follow-up examinations, and his parents are anticipating more surgeries in the following year to repair his renal and orthopedic problems.

Garrett also receives physical and occupational therapy from the Children's Therapy Center. He manipulates family heirloom toys with both hands, just as his father and uncles did when they were the same age. He interacts with the toys that his grandmother Marcia gives him, with the same familiar sense of discovery exhibited by his grandfather Bill while operating within the Logistics Modernization Program in the TACOM-Rock Island LMP Cadre.

Note from by Bill Jacobs: I often wonder what I can do for people I feel sympathy for, other than express sympathy for their situation. In this case, I witnessed what one person was able to do for another person, and it had had a lasting impact upon a child's life, and a cascade of impacts upon everyone who recognized the importance of the gift. Garrett and his parents and now Kristi are all heroes of mine, and I think you can see why. His ready smiles touch everyone who sees him, and I wouldn't be surprised if he's a hero not just to me, but many others as well.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16