Through Grief, Families Turn to Giving

For some families, a hospital stay ends in heartbreak. The passing of an infant or child is a devastating loss that no parent or family should ever have to experience. But, even with the best medical care, sometimes the unimaginable happens.

In the wake of their loss, some parents and family members turn to philanthropy. They give back to honor their child’s life and show gratitude to the doctors and nurses for their compassionate care. They hope their gift helps families in a similar situation and, perhaps, even inspires others to give.

Two families, each of whom experienced a tragic loss, agreed to share their story with us—a story that is best told in their own words. We are grateful to the families of Kamryn Lambert and Tatum Elizabeth Benzing for their willingness to share such a personal story and for their ongoing support of the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital.

The memory of Kamryn and Tatum forever lives on in our patients, their families, and the entire University of Maryland community.

Benzing familyTatum Elizabeth Benzing

Our first-born daughter, Tatum Elizabeth Benzing, was born on June 12, 2017. Within days, she was taken to the Drs. Rouben and Violet Jiji Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital after being diagnosed with a rare disease called Infantile Myofibromatosis. This disease, which involves the growth of benign tumors, was in almost every organ of her body.

Over the two months of Tatum’s life, the nurses and doctors did everything they could to help and cure her complications. Although it was the most devastating experience, it was an amazing experience at the same time. The team of doctors and nurses went above and beyond. They made sure that Tatum—as well as we—received the best care at our most trying times. They had a wonderful bedside manner.

Pictured: Kevin and Kelsey embrace their three children: Parker, Tatum (whose remains are in the small box), and Carson.

Having the opportunity to be with our daughter each and every day is a piece of our experience that we are most grateful for. For two months, we spent every day and many nights in the NICU. The ability to have our own room made it possible for us to share each moment with our daughter.

To this day we stay connected with the NICU and the nurses that provided care. To show our gratitude, we have made in-kind contributions and host a basketball game every year in Tatum’s honor to raise funds. Tatum’s care providers even attend this event. Our ultimate goal is to name a patient room in the NICU after our beloved daughter.

Our time spent at the NICU that summer will stay with us for the rest of our lives. Our memories will forever include the nurses, the doctors, and of course, our beautiful first-born daughter, Tatum Elizabeth Benzing.

~ Kevin and Kelsey Benzing, Tatum’s parents

Kamryn Lambert

Kamryn LambertWorking with the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital is a mission of love in memory of our granddaughter, Kamryn Lambert, and in gratitude for the care she received from the staff. Doctors, nurses, social workers, child life specialists and, in the end, palliative care experts, all combine to give a quality of care that is indescribable and can only be appreciated if you are on the receiving end of it.

Kamryn was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia on September 7, 2004 and passed away on September 3, 2007. These two dates were two of the saddest and most life-altering days in the lives of the Lambert/Katzenberger family.

Most would think that memories of a three-year battle with leukemia, that ultimately ended with the worst possible outcome, would be ones we would want to block out forever. But the care, the concern, the positivity, and the incredible dedication to saving each and every child make it impossible to remember anything but the good memories. It made me want to help the amazing staff and this institution to be able to provide that to as many children as possible and perhaps help them to enhance the patient experience even more, in any way that I could. It was as much a selfish mission as it was selfless.

As we were leaving the hospital on the evening of September 3, 2007, with a sobbing and broken father, he looked at me and said, “I just want people to remember her and know that she existed.” I promised him that I would make sure that she was never forgotten and maybe even chuckled at the thought that anyone could ever forget that sassy little redhaired fashionista from the fifth floor!

The Kamryn Lambert Foundation was born out of this promise, with its first mission to provide gifts at the holidays for the families of the Hematology Oncology Clinic. Our efforts were embraced by the staff who once cared for her and now felt our loss. It was truly a united effort, and I will be forever grateful for the guidance and feedback along the way that helped me to help you. We have worked together on so many projects over the last 14 years, growing and branching out to other area hospitals, but our main focus and commitment will always be the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital because we know that Kamryn left a huge part of her spirit and an even larger part of her heart there.

~ Debi Katzenberger, Kamryn’s grandmother

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