It's Happening: The Gifts of Baby Jaycee Schwinn

By Julie Perine on April 15, 2018 from It’s Happening via

Two-year-old Jolee woke up from her nap and crawled into the lap of her mom, who soothed her, telling her she was on the phone talking to a lady about baby Jaycee. It had been just a couple weeks since they had lost the beautiful blue-eyed infant to a devastating incident and nearly a month to the day since Jen and Jesse Schwinn received the phone call that forever changed their lives.
“Jaycee was found in cardiac arrest at the baby sitter’s house on Friday, March 9,” said Jen. “She was resuscitated by paramedics and again by a doctor and nurse at York Hospital, then they decided she needed to be flown to Hershey Medical Center and that’s where we went.”
After a series of tests, MRIs, CT and brain scans and several long days of prayer and embrace, Jaycee – as her parents eventually petitioned to God – was swept up in his arms and taken home.
Jen told her baby girl’s story with a quiver in her voice, yet a strength that translated into genuine love and thankfulness for the very short time she had with her. The past few weeks had been somewhat of a blur, but was slowly coming back into focus; some parts she would rather forget, but other parts she never wants to forget.
“I don’t want there to ever be a time when we can’t talk about her or remember her,” said perhaps the bravest person I’ve ever had the privilege of interviewing.
Jaycee’s beautiful short life won’t be forgotten. She’ll live on through deeply-felt memories, but also through a life-changing gift to someone, somewhere. The heart of a baby – or perhaps a teen or adult – will beat on thanks to a heart valve donation from baby Jaycee.
“Everyone says it’s a brave thing to do, but we don’t feel that way. It wasn’t even a choice. It was the only thing we could do,” Jen said.
Once there was no hope for Jaycee, the Schwinns knew they would donate her organs.
“We were initially told she was going to be declared brain dead and we were going to donate all her organs, then we found out she was not and we had to wait and find out the prognosis to see if she would ever function with her level of brain damage,” Jen said. “It was determined she would not. Her brain was completely gone, but her brain stem was alive. We had to make the decision to remove her from life support and instead of succumbing to brain death, she would succumb to cardiac death. That automatically excluded her major organs, like her lungs and heart.”
Jaycee lived three days after being removed from life support. She was a fighter, but they knew that from the time she made her arrival in this world - well before her early-December due date. 
“My water broke after trick-or-treating, around 2 a.m.,” Jen said. “She was born by C-section early on Nov. 1.”
Though a five-week preemie, she only spent 12 days in the NICU before going home to York, Pa. with her family.
“She was given the middle name Jayne, the same as my mom’s middle name,” said Jen of her mother who died last year after battling cancer for seven years.
“She was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer in May 2010 and given three months to live and she died April 30, 2017, the week I found out I was pregnant with Jaycee,” Jen said. “Jaycee was a fighter, just like my mom.”
Jaycee was a healthy, strong, sweet, calm and patient baby.
“She smiled and she was just starting to laugh. She was trying to learn how to sit up,” Jen said. “She hadn’t rolled over yet.”
Jaycee’s big brother, 7-year-old Jacob, was so good with her.
“He would pick her up and carry her around. He would hold her in church and swing her back and forth,” Jen said. “He danced with her.”
Two-year-old Jolee was constantly hugging and kissing her baby sister, laying with her every chance she got.
“And Jaycee never fussed, complained or cried,” Jen said. “Really, the only time she complained was when she was hungry or tired. There were times I’d come home from work and couldn’t hold her right away and she would lay in her bouncy seat, just watching me and waiting.”
Jen works as a dispatcher for Rabbit Transit public transportation in York. Jesse is a police officer for Baltimore County, Pa.
“I used to be a police dispatcher for Baltimore County,” she said. “That’s how we met.”
Many times, Jen dispatched help for accidents and home emergencies. Never in her wildest dreams did she think she would be on the other end of one of those calls. In fact, it all does seem like a nightmare.
“It’s like I’m struggling to wake up, but I can’t,” she said. “I feel like that a lot of days, like I’m going to wake up and everything will be ok.”
The Schwinns have been embraced with love and support from their community and from people all over the globe. Through a story on “Humankind” – on the USA Today Web site – more than a half million people have read Jaycee’s story.
“Obviously, it’s tragic and heart-breaking and I might never feel full again without her, but to know she’s inspired hope in people – a lot of people – in the world who might have been hopeless; that her story has inspired people and given them hope, that’s really amazing,” Jen said.
The Schwinns decided even before Jaycee died that there would not be a funeral.  
“Funerals are for old people. Children don’t have funerals. They have parties,” Jen said. “We didn’t want to have her at a funeral home with people crying and flowers. We didn’t want her to be associated with sadness and funerals. We wanted her to be remembered happily and playfully." 
A celebration of life – with tumbling/gymnastics equipment, a bounce house, face painting and barbeque galore – was held at Goodwill Fire Company in York Township, the station which houses the medics who worked so passionately to revive Jaycee. Her siblings and cousins, their friends and members of the community had fun in her honor and remembrance.
“There were hundreds of people there including family members from West Virginia, Tennessee and South Carolina,” Jen said. “We wanted everybody there we could think of. This was going to be her only party. She wouldn’t have a first birthday, Christmas, Fourth of July, graduation, homecoming or a wedding. We had to celebrate everything all at once.”
In lieu of flowers, the Schwinns suggested donations to the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Pa. in Hershey, a facility where they spent much time during the most difficult days of their lives and were treated with love and compassion. Another way to pay tribute to Jaycee and her story is to register to become an organ donor. Besides the promise of eternal life given by their Lord and Savior, Jen and Jesse can’t think of a greater gift.
"Jaycee was no longer able to live with us and be a part of us, so we're hoping she can live on through someone else and maybe extend their life or improve their life or even give them life so they could bring joy to their families," Jen said.
"Everything that was taken from us, we were hoping to be able to give to someone else so they wouldn't lose what they have."
In addition to the Schwinns' loss and heartache, they are accumulating very high medical expenses for Jaycee's care over the 10 days she was at Hershey Medical Center. Day one alone totaled nearly $200,000. A friend set up a YouCaring page where donations can be made to help. More than $6,000 has aleady been raised. Make a donation by visiting the page here
Read Jaycee's letter to her organ recipient and a letter from her dad Jesse, which was read to all who attended Jaycee’s celebration of life here. Read more about organ donorship here at the Gift of Life Donor Program, the program utilized by the Schwinn family. Read baby Jaycee's obituary here
Editor’s Note: I found out about baby Jaycee through Melanie Griffith of our community. She and Jesse are cousins. Mel, as the Schwinns call her, is one of many family members who petitioned her friends to pray for baby Jaycee and her family. 

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