Weighing just 1 pound, 12 ounces at birth, Jared Kerby wasn’t expected to live long.
He not only lived, but thrived, meeting milestones that included his recent graduation from Cabrillo High School in Lompoc and earning his Eagle Scout rank.
Not surprisingly, his Eagle Scout project focused on the Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, where he spent the first three months of his life.
Kerby’s story is also the focus of a Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital commercial.
A high-risk pregnancy that culminated in preeclampsia led doctors to deliver Mary Kerby’s fourth and youngest child at 26 weeks.
“We were both spared and Cottage did a great job — but also everybody was praying,” Mary Kerby told Noozhawk.
“We were told pretty grimly that we were going to lose not just Jared but our mother,” added Jared’s brother, Jeremy.
For weeks, Mary Kerby wasn’t allowed to hold her infant son, who was connected to assorted life-saving equipment for breathing and feeding.
The tiny baby had surgery to preserve his eyesight after doctors determined he had retinopathy, a condition found in small infants born before retinal blood vessels fully form and are deprived of oxygen they would get in the later stages of full-term pregnancy.
A few weeks later, Kerby’s small intestines ruptured, leading to another surgery. The little boy lost three-fourths of his small intestines, and was equipped with an ileostomy ultimately reversed when he turned 10 months old.
“The surgeon looked so stressed and worried so we were ready to lose Jared at that second time,” Mary Kerby recalled.
The boy’s survival was so precarious she sent a birth announcement of the tiny baby in the NICU with an explanation of his condition.
“We seriously didn't think he was going to live so we thought, it’s not a pretty picture, but this is our son and we wanted an announcement,” she said.
“We wanted to celebrate every minute he was alive the best we could.”
Since the age of 8, Kerby was active in Scouting, participating in Lompoc’s Troop 66 as he earned merit badges.
Years later, the Scout’s project to earn his Eagle rank was a no-brainer.
“It was sewing incubator blankets for the NICU so I could give them back something for helping me,” he explained.
Kerby, who will turn 19 in early August, organized volunteers to create the blankets and presented approximately 20 of them to staff of the Cottage Children’s Medical Center NICU earlier this year.
During that visit, he found his handprint in the wall representing years of NICU graduates.
“I just felt a lot of gratitude, a whole lot of gratitude that I can’t really express because it was too much,” Kerby said.
“Me, too,” his mom added.
After attending Dos Pueblos High School while his family lived in Goleta, Kerby graduated from Cabrillo High in June.
He went through school with few limitations, getting extra help in classes as needed.
Lingering weakness prevented him from participating in some physical activities, such as high school sports and some Scouting merit badges.
Among hobbies, he loves playing guitars and studying music history.
Up next for him is a six-month service mission through the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Los Angeles Temple, doing assorted chores such as wrapping sandwiches.
When he returns, Kerby will attend Allan Hancock College with plans to study horticulture.
— Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.
(Cottage Health video)