Jackie Kennedy had two children with her husband, President John F. Kennedy, but three didn’t make it. The nation was aware of the struggles that the Kennedys endured while making a family.
Jackie’s first pregnancy resulted in a miscarriage in 1955. When she was pregnant again in 1956, she delivered a stillborn daughter that she and Jack aptly named Arabella. She was delivered via Cesarean section. The first lady’s third and fourth pregnancies produced Caroline and John. It wasn’t until her fifth pregnancy that her worst nightmare came true again.
The Daily Mail published excerpts from a book detailing the birth of the president and first lady’s fifth baby. It was a sad day when baby Patrick Kennedy came into the world three weeks early, hardly able to breathe, and losing his strength before his mother’s eyes.
It was in 1963 when the Kennedys were in the midst of living a “charmed life.” Suddenly, Jackie experienced acute stomach and back pain; she was airlifted to the hospital. On the way to the hospital, Jackie feared the worst and expressed it to the doctor who accompanied her on the flight.
“Dr. Walsh, you’ve got to get me to the hospital on time. I don’t want anything to happen to this baby,” Jackie said to him. “This baby mustn’t be born dead.”
Dr. Walsh was Jackie’s personal obstetrician. He assured her that she’d be at the medical facility in plenty of time. They were on a 20-mile flight.
Baby Patrick Bouvier Kennedy was born prematurely with a respiratory syndrome, wrote author Michael S. Ryan, a registered respiratory therapist. He wrote this in the book, Patrick Bouvier Kennedy, A Brief Life that Changed the History of Newborn Care.
At the time of Jackie’s labor and being sent to the hospital, President Kennedy was in the Oval Office. Within a half-hour, the president’s Air Force helicopter left the White House for Andrews Air Force Base and on to Otis.
Baby Patrick was delivered by Cesarean section at 12:52 p.m. He was born at 34 weeks and measured 17 inches. He weighed four pounds, 10-and-a-half-ounces. He appeared well-developed with light brown hair. Although he moved his arms and legs, his cry was “barely audible.” He was placed in an incubator and covered with warmed blankets. Since his breathing patterns were so erratic, oxygen was infused into the incubator.
According to one physician’s note, “Idiopathic respirator distress syndrome, translated as ‘difficulty in breathing for reasons unknown.'”
All of the normal patterns newborns experience after clearing their lungs of amniotic fluid weren’t present in Patrick. He should’ve been able to cry normally after the process. Since Patrick’s lungs didn’t “successfully make the conversion,” he “emitted not such cry.” His breathing was labored and indicated that his lungs weren’t capable of clearing the amniotic fluid. At that point, the staff knew what it meant, and a chaplin was called in. President Kennedy arrived shortly thereafter.
He was only one hour old, and his labored breathing hadn’t changed. Dr. Walsh informed the president and first lady that Patrick was born with hyaline membrane disease, which is now called respiratory distress syndrome (RDS). The infant’s lungs were covered with a “glassy membrane.” Time would have been the only possible cure, but he would have had to stay alive for 48 hours in order for that to happen. Doctors brought in highly-respected pediatrician Dr. James Drorbaugh from Harvard Medical School to observe Patrick’s condition. He recommended that Patrick be transferred to Boston Children’s Hospital.
John F. and Jackie Kennedy on their wedding day, September 12, 1953. pic.twitter.com/7oOpvrXQHC
— History Lovers Club (@historylvrsclub) December 18, 2015
Jackie Kennedy had one last chance to see her son before he was transferred. She was comforted by her husband who reminded her that John Jr. had breathing problems when was born as well.
President Kennedy was at the hospital where baby Patrick was being treated. His condition seemed to improve at first but worsened later. He died after living for 39 hours. It was a devastating loss for the couple. Jackie was too weak to attend the funeral.
All of this unfolded a mere three months before President Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas.
The book went on to reveal that the only good thing coming from the death of the Kennedy’s child, is that it drew attention to a lack of funding to study neonatal care for preterm babies. It killed tens of thousands of babies each year.
Kennedy signed a huge grant into law that authorized $265 million expenditure to be mainly used for newborn research. The drug Exosurf is one of the most notable medications able to successfully treat RDS.
[Image via YouTube screenshot]