SAKT Ambassador

A Fighter and a Tradition were Born

Each May and December, Will Strand brings presents and treats to the nurses and physicians in St. Alexius’ Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). His mother, Sandra (a.k.a. Fred), father, Wade, and sisters, Olivia and Phoenix, accompany him. It is Will’s way of saying “thank you” to the staff for helping him fight for his life.

On May 2, 2005, Fred went into labor with Will when she was only 23 weeks pregnant. “I ran in and the labor and delivery team was able to stop the labor. We began a series of shots to help Will’s lungs grow. The goal was to keep him in for a full 25 weeks,” says Fred.

Will in St. Alexius’ NICU at five days old.

Just nine days later, Will was born at 7:49 a.m. by emergency C-section. Just after the birth, Fred remembers Will “meowed” and disappeared as the nurses quickly took him to the NICU. “I told Wade to follow him. A little while later Wade brought back a photo and said, ‘He’s alive. He’s a fighter.’”

Will continued his fight for the next three months in St. Alexius’ NICU. Fred kept a daily calendar to journal Will’s weight; if it was a good or bad day, and how she was feeling. Fred said, “We had a miscarriage prior to Will being born, so it was even more difficult to know that he might not make it. It was a rollercoaster ride. One day was great, and the next day he would need a blood transfusion.”

Will is now a healthy nine-year-old, super-energetic boy.

Even though Will’s three months in the NICU were trying, Fred beams as she talks about the staff. “Will wore a Spiderman onesie. One day, the nurses decided to make matching eye protection for him, so they created a Spiderman eye mask. You can tell they truly cared about Will and us.”

Will is now an energetic, young boy who is an early riser, loves to read, swim and visit the NICU. “We like to meet with families when they call us, as it gives them hope to see that Will is such a healthy child. We bring Will’s calendar so parents can see we also had good and bad days. They are encouraged to know there can be a happy ending.”

This year, Will represents the NICU as the St. Alexius Kickball Tournament (SAKT) 2014 ambassador. Proceeds from SAKT 2014 will help fund NICU’s future upgrade project by purchasing technology and enhancing its space for the infants and families it serves. “We were happy to allow Will to be the SAKT ambassador because the NICU is a special place. We believe it is important to share Will’s story. It’s good to tell moms and dads that they can’t give up. The more strength they have, the more strength they give their child to fight. There is always hope.”

To learn how you can help infants and their families by participating in SAKT 2014, click here.