Video: ’30 Hours’ with Veyda

When doctors told Hayley and Trevor Lamoureux halfway through their pregnancy their baby had a life-threatening kidney disease, they asked: “What if?”

What if their daughter beat the odds? What if she were born healthy enough to survive? What if they could hold her, just for a few minutes?

“I don’t know what her life will be like. You might get an hour, you might get 10,” Hayley recalled the doctor telling them. “But I can’t say that one hour won’t be the greatest hour of your life.”

“We went in there knowing whatever time we got, it would be a blessing,” she added.

They were blessed with 30 hours. Thirty hours after their daughter Veyda Faith entered the world, she died in their arms. And those 30 hours have changed their lives.

“Our hearts are 10 times bigger than they were before,” Hayley told the Denver Catholic Jan. 9 at the couple’s lower downtown apartment.

Trusting God’s plan
The winding road of Veyda’s journey began last August when Hayley, 27, went for a routine 20-week ultrasound. There the doctor mentioned the baby’s kidneys looked “bright.” Further testing revealed Veyda had autosomal recessive polycystic kidney disease, a rare genetic disorder occurring as infrequently as once in every 40,000 people, according to the ARPKD/CHF Alliance. Neonatal death occurs in up to 50 percent of cases due to undeveloped lungs, generally caused by insufficient amniotic fluid.

“(The doctor) said it’s fatal and we recommend termination because this diagnosis isn’t compatible with life,” explained Hayley.

It was a recommendation she and Trevor wouldn’t consider as they intended to continue the pregnancy regardless of the diagnosis.

“She already had so much personality,” she said. “There’s just no way, regardless of what the doctor said that we could do that because we already felt so connected to her.”

They refused further testing, though continued with ultrasounds and monitoring of the baby’s movement and heart rate, as well as amniotic fluid. To prepare for the care Veyda might need, including dialysis and a transplant, they learned everything they could about kidney disease.

“We became consumed with doing everything we could, knowing that it might not be OK.”

They also trusted in God and in his plan.

“There were so many times when I would be getting in this snowball of worrying and then I would just remember that it was out of my hands, that I just had to trust,” Hayley said. “I just had to continue to be her vessel, and do everything I could to bring her into this world.”

A touch, a kiss
At 31 weeks there was no amniotic fluid left. At 33 weeks doctors determined the safest method for Veyda’s delivery would be a Caesarean section at 37 weeks.

Veyda was born at 2:35 p.m. Dec. 10. She weighed in at a respectable 6 pounds and 8 ounces, but her lungs weren’t developed. It was like “trying to inflate a tennis ball,” doctors told them. She was swept off to the neonatal intensive care unit where she was connected to a ventilator to breathe for her.

Hayley and Trevor weren’t able to hold their newborn daughter her first day, but they were overjoyed, they said, to simply touch her feet and hands, and “just be there with her.” They kissed her forehead, she opened her eyes; they rubbed her feet, she flexed her toes; they applied lip balm to her chapped lips, she opened her eyes again.

“I was beyond ecstatic,” Hayley said through her tears, as her husband cried by her side. “When she opened her eyes I was so happy.”

By the next morning, there was no progress in Veyda’s lung development. Doctors reported there was nothing they could do.

“Of course that was really hard to hear,” Hayley shared, but in the midst of her pain came one of her greatest joys: she was able to hold Veyda for the first time.

“The minute that they set her in my hands, her oxygen levels went from 60 percent to 90 percent,” Hayley said. “Of course I thought, ‘That’s what she needed, she needed her mom and she’s OK now’ … it was worth all of it because it was so amazing.”

But Veyda wasn’t breathing on her own. And now while holding her, they could now feel how the ventilator was convulsing her body.

“(We thought) we can’t continue to selfishly have her on this ventilation because, you know, it was just shaking her little body.”

Veyda was baptized in her first few hours, and after they decided to remove the ventilator, the new parents were asked when they would prefer to say their goodbyes.

“We didn’t want to let go of her and we didn’t want to have her not be with us,” Hayley said. “We both agreed it was best to take out the tubes then because we didn’t want to continue to have her suffer.”

Love surpassing expectations
The doctor left mother, father and baby alone; allowing them time together as a family.

“Even after she passed away in our arms I was happy just to look at her,” Hayley said. “She gave us a love we never knew possible. But also a loss I never knew I could feel.”

Father Scott Bailey, who the couple knew from attending Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, comforted the family at Veyda’s funeral service Dec. 20.

“His message was amazing,” Hayley said. “What he said is she’s taking care of us now. When we have a moment of weakness, we know she’s watching over us. Now we have a little angel up there who looks down on us and gives us gifts all the time.”

This has brought them peace.

“I’m still happier now than I was before meeting her,” Hayley said. “We don’t have any regrets at all about the time spent with her because it was a love that we’ve never known.”

COMING UP: Father and son, deacon and priest: Deacon dads and priest sons share special bond as both serve God’s people

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The bond between a father and son is one of God’s greatest designs; however, when father and son are both called to serve the Church as deacon and priest, that bond takes on a whole new meaning. Just ask these two dads and their sons, all of whom answered the call to serve the people of God at the altar.

Deacon Michael Magee serves at Our Lady of Loreto Parish in Foxfield, while his son Father Matthew Magee has worked as the priest secretary to Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila for the past several years and will soon be moved to a new assignment as parochial vicar at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Boulder. Deacon Darrell Nepil serves at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Denver, and his son, Father John Nepil, served at several parishes within the archdiocese before his current assignment as a professor at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary.

However different their journeys may have been, all four have something in common; mainly, that far from seeing their vocations as a reward from God, they have received them as an uncommon gift of grace that has blessed their families and individual relationships with each other abundantly, knowing that God acts in different ways to help us all get to Heaven.

Interwoven journeys

Deacon Michael Magee was ordained in May 2009, at the end of Father Matt’s first year of seminary. Little did they know that God would use both of their callings to encourage each other along the journey.

Deacon Michael’s journey began when a man from his parish was ordained a deacon.

“I simply felt like God was calling me to do something more than I was doing at the present time,” he said. “I had been volunteering for a number of different things and was involved in some ministry activities and in the Knights of Columbus. And I thought the idea of being a deacon would be simply another activity for which I could volunteer.”

He didn’t know what it entailed at the time. In fact, he believed it was something a man could simply sign up for. To his surprise, the diaconate was more serious – and it required five years of formation and discernment. Yet he was so drawn to it, that he decided to do it anyway. But as he learned more about the nature of the diaconate during his formation, he became more nervous and unsure about whether God was really calling him to that vocation. 

While his doubts remained all the way up to his ordination, Deacon Michael was faithful to his studies, trusting that God would lead him in the right path. 

And God did — through the calling of his own son to the priesthood.

Deacon Michael didn’t realize that his son Matthew had paid close attention to his father’s faith journey and had found in it a light that gave him courage to discern the priesthood.

Father Matthew Magee (left) and his dad, Deacon Michael Magee (right), were both encouraging to one another as they each pursued their respective vocations. (Photo by Daniel Petty/Denver Catholic)

“Seeing my dad, as a father, growing in his relationship with the Lord was really influential for me on my own desire to follow Christ,” said Father Matt. “Looking at his courage to discern his own vocation and follow God’s plan in his life gave me the strength and courage to be open to the same thing in my life… He played a very important role, whether he knew it or not at the time, and whether I knew it or not at the time.”

On the other hand, Father Matt didn’t know that his dad was in turn encouraged by his own response to God’s calling. 

“As I went through all those doubts, I watched Matthew’s journey in seminary and listened to how he was dealing with that in his life. And, as he just articulated very well, I also saw those same qualities in him,” Deacon Michael said. “Seeing a young man in his 20s willing to consider following God for the rest of his life also gave me the courage to continue on in my own journey, to see it through.”

God’s way of uplifting them in their vocations through each other’s journey is something they are very grateful for. 

This unusual grace impacted Father Matt during his first Mass, when his dad, as deacon, approached him before the Gospel reading and asked for the traditional blessing by calling him “father.”

“It was a really special moment for me. He’s certainly my biological father and raised me. But then there’s something different when we’re at the altar in a clerical capacity — there’s a strange reversal of roles when we’re giving spiritual nourishment to the people — a father asks the new father for the blessing,” he said.

In both of their vocations, Deacon Michael and Father Matt see God’s Providence and the unique plan he has for all of us.

“We all have a vocation, even if it’s something we may not expect,” Deacon Michael concluded. “You may feel anxiety or worry about what it’s going to look like, but trust in God. He will take care of things as he always does.”

A bribe for Heaven

For Deacon Darell and Father John Nepil, the journey was different, but not any less providential.

While he grew up Catholic, Father John wasn’t interested in setting foot on any Church activity during his teenage years. His saving grace was perhaps what many parents have to do to get their teenagers to Church: bribe them.

“His mom and I basically bribed him to go to the Steubenville of the Rockies Conference,” Deacon Darell said with a laugh. “He didn’t want to go, but we’d heard so many good things about it, that we said, ‘We’re going to make this happen, whatever it takes.’”

So the Nepils came up with a creative idea.

“He owed me some money for a uniform that he had needed for a job in the summer. So, I said, ‘Listen, if you go to the Steubenville of the Rockies Conference, I’ll forgive your debt. And he did, he and his brother went. And John especially came back a different boy. He literally was converted with a lightning bolt at that retreat.”

To this day, Father John marks his conversion to Christ from the summer before his senior year in high school when he attended that conference. 

As it happens with stories worth telling, the details of how much money he owed his father have varied over the years, and it’s a matter of debate among them, but Father John remembers it was close to $500.

“That’s subject to each one,” Father John said laughingly. “But what matters is that they offered to forgive my debt if I went to this retreat – it was money well spent.”

Besides this important event, Father John said that his dad influenced him in many ways by the simple fact of who he was as a father.

“My dad’s faith and moral character were a rock for me during some difficult teenage years,” he said. “He’s a great example of a man who was always faithful and lived a really outstanding moral life, but then as he deepened in love with Christ, he decided to give of himself in a more profound service.”

Father John Nepil (left) and Deacon Darrell Nepil (right) both had rather roundabout ways to their respective vocations, but they both say serving God’s people together as brothers in Holy Orders is a great joy. (Photo provided)

Besides his desire to serve and follow God, the seed that would eventually lead Deacon Darell to the diaconate was planted by a coworker, who would also take holy orders: Deacon Joe Donohoe.

“One day he said to me, ‘You should be a deacon.’ And, of course, I laughed at him and said, ‘I don’t have time for that. My life is too busy.’ But it only took him to suggest it for the idea to keep coming back to my head, and God kept nudging me. Eventually I decided I really wanted to do that,” Deacon Darell said.

The ability to share at the altar during the Mass has deepened the natural relationship of father and son and given Deacon Darell and Father John new opportunities to grow closer to God. 

One of the most meaningful times came when Deacon Darell had a massive stroke in 2018. While he was in the hospital, Father John was able to visit and celebrate Mass at his bed and pray the rosary with him every day, as he had come back from Rome and was working on his dissertation.

“It was probably the most privileged and intimate time I’ve ever had with my father,” Father John said. “It was an amazing gift that really changed our relationship.”

“I feel like that’s a huge reason why I healed and why I am here today,” Deacon Darell added.

“It’s a real gift to have my dad as a deacon and a brother. It’s a tremendous honor. It’s one of the great joys of my life.” Father John concluded. “That’s really what has bonded our relationship together: the sheer desire to serve Jesus, especially in holy orders.”