July 29, 2012
"JOHNNY, I HARDLY KNEW YE" XVI
Kenneth O'Donnell writes about August 7, 1963, the day when Jackie delivered a baby boy, 5 weeks premature, at Otis AFB.
Kenny tells us that her obstetrician, Dr. John Walsh, rushed her to the air base hospital & the President flew to be with her.
The baby, delivered by Caeserean section, weighed 4 pounds 10 1/2 ounces.
He was immediately baptized by the base chaplain & named PATRICK BOUVIER KENNEDY.
Patrick, having breathing difficulties, was transferred to Children's Medical Center in Boston & then to Harvard's School of Public Health where he was placed in a high-pressure oxygen chamber.*
*Neonatal respiratory distress syndrome, also known as Hyaline membrane disease, occurs in the underdeveloped lungs of premature infants. The condition worsens 2 to 4 days after birth.
Source: PubMedHealth @ www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
JFK spent the night at the hospital with Dave Powers. At 2 a.m. he was informed that the baby's condition was worsening.
While waiting for the elevator, the President saw a severely burned child in one of the rooms. He found out the mother's name & wrote a note of sympathy for her.
Dave said later...
"There he was, with his own baby dying downstairs but he had to take the time to write a note to that poor woman, asking her to keep her courage up."
Two hours later Patrick passed away.
"He put up quite a fight. He was a beautiful baby."
Then the President went upstairs to his room & cried.
Patrick's funeral was celebrated by Cardinal Cushing on August 10 in the small chapel at his home. The baby was buried at Holyhood Cemetery in Brookline near the house where JFK was born.**
Kenny goes on to say that "the loss of Patrick affected (JFK) & Jackie more deeply than anybody.....realized."
Later in October while attending a Harvard football game, JFK suddenly decided to leave & go visit Patrick's grave.
With the help of the Secret Service & a police officer, the President & Dave managed to make it to the cemetery alone.
JFK, looking at his son's grave, said to Dave: 'He seems so alone here.'
**After JFK's burial at Arlington, both Patrick's remains & those of an unnamed stillborn Kennedy infant buried at Newport were both placed beside their father.
Gravestone of Patrick Bouvier Kennedy
Arlington National Cemetery
Photo by wKnight94 (2011)