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Our story begins like an episode of The Andy Griffith Show. Shannon and I attended the same small high school in Rural Pickens County, Alabama. Shannon was in the band and played softball and I was the captain of the state championship football team. Throughout high school, we were best friends and didn’t start dating until we were both in college. We dated long distance for over 9 years. Despite the repeated “when are you going to get married” questions we wanted to wait until I was done with law school and we were both established in our jobs. Shannon and I married in 2006 and we moved to Tuscaloosa County. For two years we both commuted to work – Shannon to Pickens County to teach school and me to Birmingham.
After two years of marriage, we decided we were as ready as we could be to be parents. When we found out Shannon was pregnant we were so excited. At that same time, I found a new job in Huntsville with Martinson & Beason, PC. Shannon had to finish the school year in Pickens County so we were to be apart during Shannon’s pregnancy. During a routine ultrasound, Shannon’s OBGYN saw something abnormal so we were sent to Birmingham to the Kirklin Clinic. As a result, Shannon had over 6 ultrasounds. I should add that we decided not to find out the sex of the baby, which we had to share with the ultrasound tech each time. Ultimately, we were told that our baby was missing a kidney but everything else looked normal. I asked should we have the baby at UAB or Children’s Hospital and was told there was no need as everything else looked normal.
On June 5, 2009, our son William (Will) Jackson Lilienthal was born via C-section at DCH Hospital in Northport, Alabama. When Will came out the doctor said it’s a boy and he’s tee teeing. My first thought was a boy and he’s using the restroom, he’s going to be alright. This thought lasted only for a minute, when we were soon told that Will was having breathing issues and was being taken to the NICU. Within a couple of hours, we were told Will’s condition was critical and he needed to be transported immediately to the RNICU (Regional Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) at UAB. Our worst nightmare was unfolding, Will needed to go to UAB and Shannon couldn’t go because she’d just had a C-section. I traveled to UAB to be with Will. For the first two days Shannon was in Northport and I was in Birmingham with Will. Thankfully Shannon was released and could come be with Will. Despite the best efforts of the great RNICU staff at UAB, Will passed away on June 8, 2009. Fortunately, we were able to hold and love our sweet angel before he passed. We later learned Will suffered from Vacterl association which is a cluster of abnormalities. Vacterl association occurs in 1 in 10,000 to 40,000 newborns.
On June 9, 2010, our son Wyatt Jameson Lilienthal was born. Wyatt is healthy as can be and is all boy and spoiled rotten. Wyatt shares Will’s initials (WJL) to honor his big brother. We started Team Will in 2013, to honor Will and help support the March of Dimes’ mission to promote healthy pregnancies, improve prenatal care, and prevent health issues threatening babies.