Home Away from Home

Taryn and Mike Larson were thrilled to bring their baby boy home from the hospital. Then, when Kenny was just 8 days old, his tiny body started clenching up.

His parents thought he was having bouts of gas, not uncommon for a newborn, but took him to a pediatrician near their Kelseyville home in Lake County, just to be safe.

“Without the care at the NICU, we wouldn’t be where we are today, and we might not even have him right now. ” – Taryn, Kenny’s mother

It turned out Kenny was actually having seizures. He was immediately put on a helicopter bound for UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland, home to a nationally recognized neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) that cares for some of the region’s most critical cases.

“I was beside myself,” Taryn recalls. “I had no idea what was going to happen or why.”

At the hospital, the Larsons got some answers: An MRI revealed Kenny had a blood clot deep in his brain, leading to a diagnosis of cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder that hinders body movement and muscle coordination. Kenny remained at our Oakland campus for 16 days, receiving anti-seizure medication and nutritional support.

“Without the care at the NICU, we wouldn’t be where we are today, and we might not even have him right now,” Taryn says. “Everybody was amazing from day one. They became like a second family.”

At 3 months old, Kenny returned to the hospital, this time for neurosurgery to alleviate fluid buildup in his brain. Now, at age 2, Kenny faces some developmental challenges: He struggles to eat by mouth consistently and has not yet started walking or talking. But he constantly amazes his parents with his progress. With the help of a special mobility device, he’s able to walk across the room. He scarfs down his favorite foods – Oreos and French fries – like any other toddler. And he’ll start a special needs preschool in the fall.

Most importantly, he’s always smiling. “He’s got to be the happiest kid ever,” Taryn says.

And Kenny still comes to Children’s for his medical care. He was even given a special nickname by staff at the Family House, a home away from home for families traveling long distances to the hospital.  

“When I gave his full name at one visit, they said it sounded like a CEO’s name,” Taryn says. “Now when they see him, they say, ‘The CEO is here!’”

For Taryn, this sense of community is invaluable. “Even if we have to drive two-and-a-half hours to get there, it’s worth it,” she says. “We count our blessings every day that Children’s helped us through that horrible start to get where we are today.”