Newborn leaves behind a cherished legacy
The first of many many kisses for Lane Leighty from his mom, Shawna, at St Clair Hospital after Lane's birth.
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During a sonogram 20 weeks into her pregnancy, Shawna Leighty and her husband, Brad, learned their unborn son had a neural tube defect known as anencephaly, which results in minimal development of the brain.
When shown the image of an open skull -- a common symptom of the condition -- Mr. Leighty, 29, asked the doctor, "Can't you fix that?"
There is no cure for anencephaly. About 75 percent of infants with the condition are stillborn; the other 25 percent usually die within days.
"It was devastating. Our first child, and we wanted him for so long," said Mrs. Leighty, 32.
While abortion was an option, the Canonsburg couple said they never considered it.
"By the time we got home, we were considering organ donation," she said.
On March 5, Joshua Lane Leighty was born at St. Clair Hospital. Three-and-a-half hours later-- after his parents and 30 family members welcomed him and held him -- he died.
Instead of flowers, the couple asked for donations to the St. Clair Hospital Foundation, the hospital's fundraising arm.
That was when Terry Fulcher, director of the Center for Women & Children at the hospital, asked the Leightys about using the donations to jump-start the national Cribs for Kids program at the Family Birth Center.
They agreed, resulting in the raising of $1,400 in their son's memory.
The first 10 cribs have been ordered for the program, which provides free cribs to parents who meet income eligibility guidelines.
"It is to make certain they go home with a place for their baby to sleep," Mrs. Fulcher said.
Cribs for Kids is an initiative of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome of Pennsylvania, a nonprofit organization headquartered on the North Side.
According to the organization's Web site, each year 3,000 infants in the United States die of SIDS, the major cause of death in infants from 1 month to 1 year of age. While the cause is unknown, what is know is that the syndrome occurs more frequently in infants living in poverty.
The goal of Cribs for Kids is to help reduce the risk of SIDS and accidental suffocation. More than 8,000 cribs have been distributed to low-income families by SIDS of Pennsylvania since 1998 to combat outdated, dangerous cribs and to give infants a place to sleep so that they do not sleep on couches or in beds sandwiched between parents.
The Leightys also donated their son's heart valve to another infant.
In addition to a "huge photo book" of their son, whom they call Lane, Mrs. Leighty said they have his legacy to cherish.
"You never expect your baby to die. But all these wonderful things keep happening because of Lane," said Mrs. Leighty, a graphic designer. Mr. Leighty is a security guard at Rivers Casino.
"I love that his brief life made such a difference," Mrs. Leighty said.
To donate, checks should be made payable to the St. Clair Hospital Foundation, with a note earmarking the funds for the Family Birth Center's Cribs project. Mail the check to: St. Clair Hospital Foundation, 1000 Bower Hill Road, Pittsburgh 15243.
First Published September 3, 2009 6:06 am