Jessica Gomke and her husband Steve know the pain of losing a child and how precious keepsakes can preserve a child’s memory.
In 2010, tragedy hit Jessica and Steve when they lost their child John at only 33-days-old. John’s journey was not an easy one: he was born with Choanal Atresia, a congenital disorder in which the back of the nasal passage is blocked. This meant John had to undergo surgery at only a few days old.
Eytan Young, M.D., MercyOne Children’s Hospital ear, nose and throat physician, was able to successfully allow John to breathe again by chiseling holes in the bone blocking his airway. When John stopped breathing and was rushed to the hospital not even a month later, Dr. Young was there to meet Jessica and Steve.
“Dr. Young was with us throughout the whole journey,” said Jessica.
After John passed away, Jessica and Steve started the John D. Gomke Charity, Inc. to support other families in a similar situation to theirs as well as to keep John’s memory alive.
“When John became an angel we thought, ‘What can we do to help other families?,’” said Jessica. “One way we knew we could help was through keepsakes.”
For the last 10 years, Jessica and Steve have funded a bereavement program at MercyOne Children’s Hospital with the hope of making a difference in other families’ lives. Jessica expressed how they never wanted these keepsakes to run out and that no parent of an angel should leave the hospital empty handed. Recently, she expressed a desire to support all bereavement programs at the Children’s Hospital.
“We found out these keepsakes were solely provided by donation, so we decided that when we started John’s charity, part of the funds would go to make sure MercyOne Children’s Hospital always had bereavement materials on hand,” said Jessica. “When you walk out of the hospital without your child you don’t have anything to hold on to. So we wanted parents to actually have something of their child to keep with them all the time.”
Jessica believes God had a bigger plan for John’s life and understanding what keepsakes mean to families reassures her that she is doing what she is supposed to be doing. Jessica hopes these keepsakes help other families through the heartache and difficultly of losing a child.
In addition to underwriting a bereavement for MercyOne Children’s Hospital, Jessica and Steve, through the John D. Gomke Charity, have provided more than 30 defibrillators to 10 Central Iowa school districts. The charity also provides adult, child and infant CPR, First Aid and AED classes for the community.
“Everyone thinks ‘Oh that won’t happen to me,’ and the reality of life is that it can,” said Jessica. “Your child could be the one in the hospital fighting for their life, or you could be a parent walking out without your child in your arms. You could also be the parent walking out with your child completely healed. There are so many scenarios that you never know when you’re going to need MercyOne Children’s Hospital.”
Learn more about the John D. Gomke Charity, Inc. and some of its upcoming events here.
If you would like to support families receiving care at MercyOne Children’s Hospital, please contact MercyOne Des Moines Foundation Senior Director of Development, Sophia Ahmad at firstname.lastname@example.org or 515-643-8035.