The story of ‘sweet baby Luke’
After the most difficult day of their lives, this family is on a mission to support Novant Health Hemby Children’s Hospital
His name was Luke, but more often than not, his family didn’t call him that. The 1-year-old boy with the infectious smile and joyful personality was better known as “sweet baby Luke.”
“We would call him that because he was so wonderful and sweet all the time. He loved people and dogs and playing with his brother. He was an absolute joy,” said Arliss Day, Luke’s mother and store manager of the Kendra Scott jewelry store in SouthPark Mall.
Then, one day in December of 2019, Luke had to be rushed to the emergency room at Novant Health Mint Hill Medical Center. One moment, he had been laughing and dancing; the next, Day and her family were watching Luke fight for his life.
“He was happy and healthy,” Day said. “As we anxiously waited in the ER to figure out what was going on, we had no idea we would later be saying goodbye to Luke.”
The medical team admitted him immediately, working feverishly to determine what was causing Luke’s rapid and devastating decline.
“He passed away in my arms, and they revived him,” Day said. “The entire emergency room team was at the door with us. They were doing everything in their power to help us, but nobody knew what was wrong.”
Soon, the family was transferred by ambulance to Novant Health Hemby Children’s Hospital Emergency Department, where they met Dr. Emily Nazarian and the team of medical professionals that would be there with them through the most difficult day of their lives.
“We knew they truly loved Luke. They asked what he liked to do, what his personality was, and we appreciated that they never gave us false hope,” Day said. “They were very upfront with what was happening, but they delivered it in such a sincere way and they were there for us as much as possible.”
The doctors were eventually able to pinpoint what was happening to Luke: He had volvulus, a twisting of the intestines more common and treatable in newborns. It is rare in children Luke’s age, and four hours after he was rushed to the ER, it took his life.
“We never had to leave Luke’s side. I was able to stand over the hospital crib and hold his hand and kiss his head. They could have easily sent me out to the waiting room, but they never did. They let me continue to love on him,” Day said.
The past few months have been hard, to say the least, but Day has found bright spots. Kendra Scott gave her three months off after Luke passed away, and she threw a fundraiser to help cover some of the family’s expenses. Day and her husband have a 3-year-old son named Adam, and as he adjusts to his new reality, he has taken to making LEGO creations to leave next to Luke’s grave every time the family visits.
The family is also turning its energy toward giving back. Day and her husband , Kelvin, have started the Luke Day Foundation to help other families who lose a child unexpectedly. And they want to continue to honor and recognize the staff at Hemby Children’s Hospital.
That work began in January. Day was eager to show her support and gratitude to Dr. Nazarian and all the nurses who had cared for Luke and her family, so she worked with her team at Kendra Scott to orchestrate a delivery of lunches and jewelry, giving each team member in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) a piece from the Kendra Scott collection.
“It was a bittersweet day. I didn’t know if I would make it through the doors of the PICU,” Day said. “When we showed up, we saw so many familiar faces. They told us this wasn’t necessary, and we said, ‘Yes, this isn’t even enough.’”
Kendra Scott has since made Hemby Children’s Hospital part of the Kendra Cares program, which brings the company’s signature Color Bar to pediatric hospitals to allow patients and families to design their own complimentary pieces of jewelry. And, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Day is planning a return trip to the hospital to deliver lunch and Kendra Scott face masks during Nursing Team Member Week.
“I think about them a lot. I pray. They’re the true heroes in it all, and I know it’s not easy for them. They all have families of their own, as well. Being able to balance that, it’s really hard, and they are put into such difficult situations. My heart has gone out to them. You worry about them,” she said.
Day has also been working with Kendra Scott’s nonprofit partners to orchestrate other events to benefit the team at Presbyterian Medical Center. Typically, the Kendra Scott location in SouthPark Mall hosts five philanthropic events per week. With the pandemic, those events have all been canceled, but Day has been working with organizers to take them from in-person to virtual and to have the proceeds benefit front-line healthcare workers.
“We have a lot of things in the works, and hopefully we can gear it all toward the Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center Foundation and have a big give after all of this,” Day said. “The team at Hemby made the most horrible situation that anyone could possibly go through bearable for me and my family. They’re there for a reason. We look back, and we look at Novant Health, and we’re just thankful.”
If you’d like to show your support to those on the front lines.
Consider a gift to the Hope for Remarkable Team Aubergine Fund (formerly the Novant Health COVID-19 Disaster Relief Fund), which provides essential healthcare workers with the resources they need now so they can focus on the important work of saving lives. It’s the work they do every day, but the work we all need more now than ever.