John Henry Kronenberger was born on January 18, 1990 at only 26 weeks.
Though everyone tried their best, his tiny lungs could not sustain him, and John Henry died in the Cooper NICU six days later.
Those six days were a living nightmare for Cheryl Cummings and Jack Kronenberger, who just weeks before were sharing the excited anticipation of welcoming their first-born child.
However, through it all, the staff at Cooper, especially a young nurse named Lois Meyer, provided compassionate care and emotional support that helped hold the family up as their world came crashing down.
“The care that was given, the emotional care, was nothing we ever experienced before,” recalled Jack. “Everyone was very, very accommodating. Lois came in on her day off and was there the day John Henry died.”
As a way to keep John Henry’s memory alive and give back to the nurses who gave so much to them, Jack and Cheryl created the John Henry Kronenberger Nursing Award dedicated to furthering neonatal nursing education.
When John Henry was born, he was placed in a clinical trial for the use of artificial surfactants to help open the lungs of preterm babies. Today, artificial surfactants are routinely used and have saved countless lives.
“When a child takes their first breath as a preemie, it could be their last because their lungs are so underdeveloped,” Cheryl said. “Our son was a surfactant trial child. Just think how many children he helped.”
Cheryl and Jack know firsthand how important education is to the advancement of medicine and how by supporting education they can ensure that John Henry’s memory lives on.
“Through the award, we will always have a connection to our son,” said Jack.
Cheryl has even made sure to allocate a portion of her life insurance policy to provide funding for the award after she passes.
The couple, now divorced, has two other children together, Gwendolyn and Cooper. Cooper is entering his sophomore year in college and Gwendolyn is currently a PICU nurse, completing her master’s degree to become a nurse practitioner.
Jack, who is the owner of JG Kronenberger Fine Jewelry in Medford is remarried with a 6-year-old daughter Jaklyn. His wife Lynn also supports the award.
To learn more about how you can sponsor the Cooper Nursing Excellence Awards or to make a gift in honor or remembrance, click here.