In memory of Jacob

— The loss of their pre­cious in­fant to a rare dis­ease in­spires a Park­wood fam­ily to fight.

(left) Mike, Shane, 1, Dylan, 13, Chris­toph­er, 1, and Frany Sales. The Sales fam­ily holds a photo of Jac­ob Sales, one of a triplet, who passed away showrtly after his birth. His fam­ily began an or­gan­iz­a­tion in his hon­or, de­voted to rais­ing money for re­search on the fatal Nec­rot­iz­ing En­tro­colit­is (NEC), which af­fects some pre­ma­ture in­fants. The or­gan­iz­a­tion is called Jac­ob’s Lay­ups, Fri­day, March 30, 2012, Phil­adelphia, Pa. (Maria Pouch­nikova)


The Sales fam­ily — Mike and Fran, their son Dylan and oth­er re­l­at­ives — were ex­cited to learn in late 2009 that they would be wel­com­ing triplets in­to the world.

It’s typ­ic­al for a wo­man car­ry­ing triplets to give birth at 34 weeks after con­cep­tion.

On the morn­ing of May 18, 2010, Fran Sales was at Abing­ton Me­mori­al Hos­pit­al for an ul­tra­sound when she began hav­ing con­trac­tions. She was at 31 weeks and three days of her preg­nancy.

Doc­tors tried to slow down or stop the con­trac­tions, to no avail.

After about eight hours, shortly be­fore 6 p.m., Jac­ob, Shane and Chris­toph­er Sales were born. Jac­ob and Shane weighed 3 pounds, while Chris­toph­er was 3 pounds, 6 ounces.

“They were all do­ing fine,” Fran Sales said.

In fact, the nurses dubbed the boys the “stars” of the neonat­al in­tens­ive care unit.

The boys stayed at the hos­pit­al for an ex­ten­ded peri­od, and their par­ents were at their side.

On Me­mori­al Day, May 31, Mike and Fran ar­rived at the hos­pit­al to find doc­tors work­ing on Jac­ob.

“He was the strongest of the three,” his dad said.

What the Park­wood couple didn’t know was that Jac­ob had de­veloped nec­rot­iz­ing en­tero­colit­is, a gastrointest­in­al dis­ease that at­tacks pre­ma­ture ba­bies with­in the first two weeks of life.

• • •

NEC in­volves in­fec­tion and in­flam­ma­tion that causes de­struc­tion of a por­tion or all of the bowel.

The dis­ease af­fects 1 in 2,000 to 4,000 NICU ad­mis­sions, and is more com­mon for ba­bies weigh­ing less than 3 pounds, 5 ounces. It is the most com­mon and ser­i­ous gastrointest­in­al dis­order among hos­pit­al­ized pre­term in­fants.

“It’s not real com­mon, but there’s a high mor­tal­ity rate,” Fran Sales said.

Pre­ma­ture in­fants have im­ma­ture bowels, which are sens­it­ive to changes in blood flow and prone to in­fec­tion. They may have dif­fi­culty with blood and oxy­gen cir­cu­la­tion and di­ges­tion.

Jac­ob was taken to St. Chris­toph­er’s Hos­pit­al for Chil­dren, and his col­or seemed to be com­ing back, though he re­mained in crit­ic­al con­di­tion en­ter­ing sur­gery on June 1.

Sadly, Mike and Fran Sales were about to hear the news they dreaded.

“The doc­tor came out, and I could tell by his face. There was noth­ing they could do for him,” Mike said.

The couple summoned their ex­ten­ded fam­ily to the hos­pit­al to say good­bye to Jac­ob John.

In­stead of count­ing the days down un­til all three boys could come home for the first time, they had to plan a fu­ner­al Mass at St. An­selm Church.

• • •

It was, of course, a sad oc­ca­sion. Then-11-year-old Dylan told the mourn­ers, “I have a mes­sage for my broth­er Jac­ob. Jac­ob, I am so glad you are my baby broth­er. I will watch over your baby broth­ers Shane and Chris­toph­er. I know you will have a good life in heav­en with grand­mom Theresa. I love you. Rest in peace. Love, your big broth­er Dylan.”

The Sales fam­ily wanted to me­mori­al­ize Jac­ob in some way and raise money to help find a cure for NEC and to as­sist par­ents with chil­dren in the St. Chris­toph­er NICU.

Dylan, now 13 and a bas­ket­ball play­er for the Academy Sabres, ini­tially wanted to hold a bas­ket­ball tour­na­ment. The fam­ily settled on Jac­ob’s Lay­ups Found­a­tion as its char­ity, but went in an­oth­er dir­ec­tion for the main fund-rais­ing event.

“We thought we could raise more money at a beef-and-beer, and we kept the name,” Dylan said.

The second an­nu­al Jac­ob’s Lay­ups Found­a­tion beef-and-beer will take place Sat­urday, April 14, from 7 to 11 p.m., at the Fraternal Or­der of Po­lice Lodge 5 up­stairs hall.

Tick­ets are avail­able in ad­vance or at the door and in­clude mu­sic, food, beer, soda and door prizes. Ad­di­tion­al money will be raised through a 50-50 draw­ing, a bas­ket of cheer, the sale of brace­lets and T-shirts, a Chinese auc­tion and a 24-page pro­gram that in­cludes a touch­ing let­ter from Dylan.

Top items in­clude a Tab­let com­puter, Phil­lies tick­ets, an auto­graphed Claude Giroux pic­ture, a Coach hand­bag, Morey’s Piers wa­ter park tick­ets and gift cards.

“We’re hop­ing to get two-hun­dred people and try­ing to raise twenty-thou­sand dol­lars,” Mike said.

Pro­ceeds will be giv­en to NEC re­search and NICU needs at St. Chris­toph­er’s Hos­pit­al. Fran Sales and Megan LePore, de­vel­op­ment dir­ect­or at St. Chris­toph­er’s Found­a­tion for Chil­dren, will ad­dress the crowd.

• • •

A be­ne­fit last June at the FOP raised $14,000, which would have been high­er had it not been for the star­tup costs for a non-profit.

In between fund-raisers, the fam­ily held an all-you-can-eat pan­cake break­fast at Ap­ple­bee’s. Also, the Neu­mann Uni­versity men’s and wo­men’s bas­ket­ball teams donated 50 cents for every lay­up made at home games this past sea­son.

In the fu­ture, the fam­ily might hold a car wash and whiffle ball tour­na­ment.

Each Novem­ber, they at­tend an emo­tion­al me­mori­al ser­vice for chil­dren who have passed at St. Chris­toph­er’s.

Dur­ing the last two Christ­mas sea­sons, they have placed a 14-foot-high lighted tree at Re­sur­rec­tion Cemetery, near the graves for Jac­ob and oth­er chil­dren. Fam­il­ies place balls on the trees with their chil­dren’s names on them.

Jac­ob also has an East­er bas­ket at his grave.

Mike, Fran and Dylan are grate­ful for all the sup­port re­ceived from Jac­ob’s grand­par­ents, aunts, uncles and cous­ins.

“Our fam­ily has been great. We ask a lot from them, and they al­ways come through,” Mike said.

The fam­ily has also been buoyed by sup­port from friends, busi­nesses and co-work­ers. Mike is a po­lice of­ficer as­signed to the 39th dis­trict. Fran works in the food and nu­tri­tion de­part­ment of Aria Health-Tor­res­dale Cam­pus and teaches Pi­l­ates classes at the North­east Fam­ily Y.

Mike Sales has happy memor­ies of hold­ing Jac­ob.

“He’ll al­ways be a part of the fam­ily,” he said. “We’ll nev­er for­get him. When we sign birth­day and Christ­mas cards, his name is on the card.”

Shane and Chris­toph­er Sales are happy and healthy 22-month-old tod­dlers with lov­ing par­ents, an older broth­er and ex­ten­ded fam­ily.

“I show them Jac­ob’s pic­ture, and as they get older I’ll tell them more about him,” Fran said. “To me, we will al­ways have triplets. Jac­ob will al­ways be a part of them, and they are a part of him.” ••


How to help …

Jac­ob’s Lay­ups Found­a­tion will hold its second an­nu­al beef-and-beer fund-raiser on Sat­urday, April 14, from 7 to 11 p.m., at the Fraternal Or­der of Po­lice Lodge 5 hall, at 1336 Spring Garden St.

Tick­ets cost $30 in ad­vance and $35 at the door.

Any­one who wants to make a dona­tion can send checks to Jac­ob’s Lay­ups Found­a­tion, P.O. Box 63394, Phil­adelphia, PA 19114.

For more in­form­a­tion, call 215-870-1917, vis­it www.jac­obslay­ or check out the Jac­ob’s Lay­ups Found­a­tion page on Face­book.

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