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I Was There Too: #TuckerStrong

I Was There Too is a series of conversations I am having with photographers and medical families who are telling stories of life (and sometimes death) for families with medical complexities.

Meet Mark and Megan Hewson. And their son, Tucker.

Parents spending time with their son in the Pediatric Cardiology Intensive Care Unit.
The Pediatric Cardiology Intensive Care Unit

I happened to meet Mark and Megan at the Treasure Life beads table outside the Cardiology Unit at the Stollery Children’s Hospital in May 2019. Following is the Facebook post Tucker’s mom wrote that day.

Little did I know just what an integral part this family would become in my own story.

A child's nameplate from his hospital room.
Tucker’s name card. These added little details by staff make such an immense difference for families.

Most times when I photograph a family in hospital it is not a case of life and death. It may be just another day of many on the Cardiology Unit or in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. It may be celebrating going home. Or just something out of the ordinary to look forward to. The families I photograph often know the hospital well. It is a part of their story. It is a part of my story. 

This was not the case for Tucker’s family. Although none of us realized just how precarious his situation was when we first chatted, it became clear shortly after I photographed Tucker the first time that his family was going to have to say goodbye soon. And friends I can’t put in to words just how important goodbyes are.

A mother holds her son's tiny hand.
Capture all the details
Parents spend time with their son following his death.

Last year when I asked the Hewson’s if I could share this image and their story in my visual resume they wrote back…

“It was honestly such a huge part of our journey, and as hard as the loss was, the photos were such an organic and beautiful event that we absolutely think it should be something others think about doing. We cherish the the images, and the raw emotion that you captured. You have our permission. ❤”

In our recent conversation, which you can watch below, we talk about Tucker, the experience of documenting hospital life and death, as well as the impact photos can have.

In this conversation…

0:40 How we met – Treasure Life Beads connection
2:30 Different levels of comfort with photos
4:40 Tucker’s Story
6:00 Pictures of the whole family – “I just want someone to take a picture of our whole family.”
6:50 Saying goodbye – “I honestly don’t even remember you being there.”
7:30 The process of photos
8:00 Getting pictures printed and talking about Tucker with his brother
11:00 Final goodbyes – “It is the only picture we have of a family of 4 with no hoses and tubes.”
13:00 #TuckerStrong t-shirts inspired the Wolfe Pack Warriors t-shirts
14:20 Collecting images – “Up until 3 days before he died we didn’t think he was going to die. We were taking pictures just like any parent would.”
16:50 Looking back and recognizing how sick Tucker was
18:40 How the meaning of pictures can change over time
21:15 Supports following the death of a child
25:00 Photo book of Facebook posts

Why Photos Matter

Being able to provide families in palliative situations with photographs is something that is very important to me. This is what Tucker’s parents had to say about it.

The experience of having photos taken in hospital was a beautiful thing Kristy did for our family. She took photos of our son, Tucker, shortly after his second open heart surgery and the plan was to take photos to follow his journey to recovery. Unfortunately, Tucker never recovered and passed away at six and a half weeks old. This is where Kristy once again stepped in, but in a huge way. 

Megan
A family says goodbye to their young heart warrior.
Berkley spends some time with his brother.

Within moments of Tucker passing away, Kristy dropped whatever she was doing and came straight to the hospital. She came and took photos of him and our family for the next few hours and captured our final moments with him. This was the first time I was ever able to hold my son without assistance from medical staff and she captured that for me. It was the most difficult moments of my life but my son was finally free from pain and we were able to spend precious moments for him and it was a time of peace.

Megan
A mother holds her son after he has died.
Megan cuddles with Tucker.

Having those pictures has impacted my family because it takes us back to those moments where we were holding our baby and it also helps us process what was really going on. The hospital room was often busy and overwhelming with so many machines and people working so hard, but when I stop and look at the pictures I can look past all of that and just see my beautiful baby boy.

I am forever grateful that I met Kristy when I did and she was able to take these photos. What a beautiful gift we have and a way to remember and honour our son.

Megan

I am so grateful to have met Tucker and his family. Their strength and resilience is inspiring. I love how they honour Tucker by continuing to share his story.

I am also excited for what’s next for their family this summer. (Psst they talk about it one minute into the video!!)

Creating images and telling my story helped me to heal.
Would it help you?

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