By B. Scott Mohr
Whenever Johnnie and Rebecca Bogardus’ infant daughter, Jillian Josephine “JJ,” celebrates a momentous occasion later in life, it will always be a bittersweet moment.
That’s because the couple will be missing their daughter’s twin brother, Thomas Joseph “TJ,” who died Aug. 11. In the 16 short days that TJ lived, he touched many lives, was loved so much and will be greatly missed.
Rebecca Bogardus spent a month in the hospital before delivering the twins three months premature. TJ weighed in at 1 pound, 4 ounces; JJ weighed 2 pounds. Although JJ is still on a ventilator, she is getting stronger and bigger, having nearly doubled her weight. Doctors expect her to be at Riley Hospital for Children for two more months.
“Emotions are running even higher now that we have moved back to Riley from St. Francis, right across the hall from where TJ passed,” Rebecca said.
“We can change JJ’s diapers but can’t hold her freely yet because of all the monitors,” said Rebecca, who spends nearly every night at the hospital. “She is getting better, but it is a constant up and down. I have no life outside of the hospital, but my employer, Quest Global Engineering, has been very understanding and is letting me work from the NICU.”
Johnnie Bogardus, a 2008 graduate of Roncalli, is employed by Covanta energy and heads to the hospital every evening after work.
“We are both exhausted, and we don’t get much sleep,” said Rebecca Bogardus, who graduated from Monrovia High School. “JJ is the only thing keeping us going.”
The couple said they can’t imagine what their hospital bills will be.
“They are already more than $120,000, and we are looking at another two months in the hospital and possibly a lifetime of therapy. We don’t know how much insurance will pay,” Johnnie said. “People say money doesn’t matter, but it does. I am concerned what this will do to us financially. We will still be paying on this 10 years down the road. Realistically, we know that we will never be able to pay off this debt on our own.”
“We hate being a charity case,” Rebecca said. “Everybody says everything happens for a reason, but there is no reason for this, other than it has brought our families closer. All we can do is sit and pray.”
Besides the mounting medical bills, Johnnie said there is a stigma that goes along with losing a baby born prematurely. “There are people who avoid me because they don’t know what to say. One guy at work walked up three flights of stairs so he wouldn’t have to encounter me in the elevator. I just wish they would come and say something. The longer they wait the harder it’s going to be.”
To help offset the mounting bills, a GoFundMe page (www.gofundme.com/2jr48ex8) has been set up, and a benefit golf outing – TJ’s Tee Off – will be held Sunday, Oct. 16, at Winding River Golf Course. The entry fee is $50 per person, $200 per foursome and includes dinner. Sponsorship and registration information is available by calling Jake Bogardus at 383-7084 or Patty Allen at 223-1580.
“The outing is something we hope to have every year,” Johnnie said. “Ideally, once we get our medical bills paid, proceeds will benefit other needy people in the community.
“Right now it still sucks, But with time we will get more sleep, and we will be able to deal with it better ... but the pain will always be there.”