Maurice and Rebecca Covington were touched when community members came together to honor their little boy, who passed away unexpectedly last winter, and to support the other moms and babies at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital.
Maurice “Reece” Dominic Covington Jr. was born on Aug. 22, 2017, at Sentara Martha Jefferson. He and his big sister, Alivia, now 4, were both surprises, “but they were definitely gifts from God,” says Rebecca.
Rebecca had a difficult pregnancy with Reece, experiencing a lot of morning sickness. Late in the pregnancy, doctors had some concerns about fluid around baby Reece’s heart, but a fetal echocardiogram showed that his heart looked to be in good shape. Aside from some colic, Reece was a healthy baby. “He grew just fine,” Rebecca says. “We never thought anything was wrong.”
However, every parent’s biggest fear became a reality for the Covingtons on Dec. 5, 2018. “One day Reece was perfectly fine and healthy, and the next day he didn’t wake up,” says Rebecca. “It was literally my worst nightmare,” says Maurice, “and it happened to us.”
An autopsy was unable to determine Reece’s cause of death. When a cause can’t be found in children over the age of 12 months, it’s called sudden unexplained death in children (SUDC). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, SUDC claims about 400 children a year, although some experts say the true number may be higher. While unexplained deaths in children under 12 months are usually classified as sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and are often caused by babies suffocating in their sleep, children over 12 months are not thought to be at risk for SIDS.
To honor and remember Reece’s life and his special relationship with his big sister, funds donated by friends, colleagues, community members and Maurice’s former UVA football teammates were used to purchase two sea turtles—one for each child—for the Baby Wall on the hospital’s Labor and Delivery Unit. The donations were organized by Anna Brooks, a member of the hospital’s birth education team and the wife of one of Maurice’s former coworkers. The Baby Wall is a place to celebrate the birth of a child or remember the life of a child who has passed away, with funds supporting the hospital’s Newborn Nursery and Mother-Baby Unit.
During Reece’s all-too-brief life, he and Alivia were inseparable, and Alivia relished her role as a big sister. Even today, she loves to go to the store and buy presents for her little brother, which she takes to his gravesite. Now their sea turtles are side by side on the Baby Wall, swimming together.
“Alivia loves the turtles,” Maurice says. “She still talks about Reece literally every day. She’s the best big sister. They were always together, always laughing.”
“She knows that her brother is in heaven,” adds Rebecca. “She speaks of him every day.”
The donations were both a surprise and an honor for the parents. “It meant so much to me,” says Maurice. “It made me feel really, really good that so many people cared that much.”
Rebecca is currently doing a lot of research on the topic of SUDC. She and her mother plan to attend the SUDC Foundation’s family retreat this fall, where Rebecca hopes to learn more about the organization’s efforts to increase advocacy and research for the prevention of unexplained deaths in children. “I’m looking forward to going with my mom and learning about the foundation,” she says. “The day we lost Reece was the worst day of my life, and I would hate for it to happen to anyone else.”
Our Baby Wall
The Baby Wall at Sentara Martha Jefferson is a special way to celebrate the birth or honor the life of a child. Located on the third floor in the waiting area near the Mother-Baby Unit, the wall features three kinds of sea turtles, which can be inscribed with a baby’s name and birthdate.
Gifts support the Mother-Baby Unit and Newborn Nursery and help provide for the health and well-being of the mothers and babies we serve.
To purchase a turtle on the Baby Wall, visit www.mjhfoundation.org/donate-babywall.