From a hospital bed in the pediatric intensive care unit at Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital, 5-year-old Levi Kimberling was baptized by a chaplain just five minutes before being put on life support. His parents, Jill and Randy, wanted to make sure he would be in God’s hands and taken care of if he never opened his eyes again.
“We felt like we were signing his life away, the chances were so low to survive,” said Jill Kimberling.
In March, Levi spiked a fever of 103 degrees and started showing signs of the flu. The flu morphed into the adenovirus, strep pneumonia, and then necrotizing pneumonia, where the lungs begin to deteriorate. Doctors told Jill it was the perfect storm of the worst viruses and bacteria.
“It was the hardest time we’ve ever been through,” she added.
For 91 days, doctors and nurses worked around the clock to save Levi. On Valentine’s Day, Levi’s heart stopped beating and it took four nurses to revive him. To help heal his fragile lungs, Levi was then put on life support for 51 days- the longest time any child his age has been on life support at Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital. His parents spent every day praying, stocking the nurse’s station with snacks, and more praying. When Levi finally opened his eyes, he told his mom he loved her.
“From there, he started getting stronger and stronger,” said Jill.
Levi was finally well enough to come home on Jill’s birthday.
Now, nine months later, Levi is giving back to the very hospital that saved his life. Last week, Levi flipped the switch on thousands of twinkling holiday lights in Cowley Park, just below Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital. The bright lights are a gift for patients and families spending the holidays in the hospital.
“This hospital is amazing, they are saving lives every day. This is the only way we can give back,” added Jill.
Levi is getting stronger every day and his mom is preparing him for school next year. This holiday season, the Kimberling family is thankful for each other, their faith, and the gift of life.