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After eight months of perfect doctor appointments, what began as a simple check-up at the local hospital unexpectedly turned into a chaotic emergency C-section. At almost 33 weeks gestation, Finn Westley Thompson was born on October 9, 2020 weighing 5 lbs 6 oz. In less than 24 hours he was transferred between three different hospitals, finally ending up at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford, which became home for Finn and his parents, Brianna and Spencer, for the next four days.

“Finn had everyone on his side,” Brianna says, “Everyone was doing everything to try to save him.”

Little Finn was suffering from liver failure. What they didn’t know at the time was that he had gestational alloimmune liver disease (GALD) resulting in neonatal hemochromatosis (NH), a very rare and often fatal disease that is unable to be detected during pregnancy until it is too late. After a long fight, Finn’s family prepared for the worst. Finn spent his last day being held and loved on by his parents who read him his favorite books: The Little Engine That Could, Baby Beluga, and I’ll Love You Forever. They even had Finn baptized by our hospital’s chaplain. On October 13th, Finn passed peacefully in his parents’ arms atop our sunny rooftop garden, surrounded by his loving care team.

“It was the hardest day of our lives. But through all the pain, our doctors and nurses at Packard Children’s Hospital were there for us,” Brianna shares. “They held us up and walked us through every step with tenderness and support. I’m forever grateful for how they genuinely cared for our family.”

Today, Finn’s legacy lives on through his parents, Brianna and Spencer, and their village of family and friends who continue to celebrate Finn’s life. They are proud to Scamper remotely in memory of Finn and on behalf of all families who benefit from the Family Guidance and Bereavement Program. 

Brianna and Spencer reflect on their family’s care at our hospital, saying that, as painful as it was, it was a beautiful experience. His extraordinary medical team fought hard to save his life. Gregory Goldstein, MD, and Steven Levitt, MD, were the first friendly faces that the Thompson family met. Pearl Kettering, MD, showed compassion and kindness not only as a doctor, but as one mom to another. Knowing that Finn was in the best care he could get was a beacon of hope in an unfathomable situation.

“Finn wasn’t just another patient,” Brianna recollects. “His doctors and nurses were his best friends.”

The personalized care did not end there. They were supported by the Family Guidance and Bereavement Program, working with their social worker Rachel who kept Brianna and Spencer’s strong bond with Finn by creating keepsakes like necklaces of his handprints, and updating them on the status of his autopsy.

Inspired by the care Finn received at Packard Children’s Hospital, Brianna and Spencer started raising funds for NH/GALD research with their fundraising team, Finn’s Warriors. The donations will contribute to the important research being done for (NH) at the Fetal and Pregnancy Health Program at Stanford School of Medicine, within the Johnson Center for Pregnancy and Newborn Services at Packard Children’s Hospital. Funds raised in honor of Finn will help the Fetal Program evaluate improved identification and treatment for women and families with a NH diagnosis. The goal is to deploy and evaluate enhanced support and education around the need for enhanced surveillance and treatment in early pregnancy—with an additional focus on women who have had a previous case of NH to avert reoccurrence in the future. In just the first couple months, they already raised an incredible $25,000 to help more families like theirs.

“To be a part of Summer Scamper, and to be a part of Stanford, is so special,” Brianna says. “[Packard Children’s Hospital] gave us four days with Finn that we wouldn’t have had otherwise.”

From the Family Guidance and Bereavement Program to Finn’s Warriors, philanthropy plays an incredible role—allowing Finn’s legacy to live on and providing world class care to kids and families.