By MAGGIE MENDERSKI
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
Kelton Peter never slept in his nursery.
The infant boy fought his Trisomy 13 for eight days from the neonatal intensive care unit at Children's Hospital in St. Louis. As his parents, Chris and Stephanie Peter, watched their little boy struggle to breathe and suffer through seizures, they realized a heart surgery to prolong his life would only deprive Kelton of peace.
The little boy died on April 26, 2012, but his parents believe his ability to help others continues.
"Sometimes you don't like the answer God gives you, but there's always an answer," Stephanie said. "God wanted Kelton here for a reason."
Kelton's sister, Victoria, 12, saw that reason early. Shortly after her brother's death, she gave her parents the first donation to Kelton's memorial fund. That $5 gift has grown into what they hope becomes yearly fundraiser to support research at St. Louis Children's Hospital's NICU. The family will host the first Forever Kelton Warrior Weekend on April 19-20.
The Peters have placed the energy that was planned for caring for their newborn into commemorating Kelton's life and encouraging medical advancements for infants like him.
"Technology changes every day, and we can help make (care) easier for another baby," Stephanie said.
A second 13th chromosome on each of Kelton's cells caused a string of deadly complications. His underdeveloped eyes, fused brain and heart defects shortened his life. The tubes clogging his throat allowed him to breathe, but they stifled his young screams.
"Surgery could prolong his life," Chris said. "But that was selfish on our part."
As the doctors unhooked Kelton from his tubes and IVs, the family saw relief flood from the child.
"I was trying to think of ways that he could live," Victoria said. "But I knew that wasn't going to work out, so I just held him, and enjoyed the last bit of him."
The family took him outside for his first breath of fresh air and sat with him in the garden outside Children's Hospital. He lived for an hour on his own.
The family treasures the nine months Stephanie carried him and the eight days that he lived. They have learned the value of a short life and the need to provide comfort for those living it.
"He had a personality before he was born," Stephanie said.
Kelton never liked pressure or noises. He'd kick his mother from inside the womb during car rides and receptions with loud music. When his sisters placed strawberry jelly jars on Stephanie's stomach, Kelton kicked them from within, and they tumbled.
Nearly a year later, several toys and a bouquet of silk flowers rest in the crib where Kelton should have slept. Victoria uses the room to read. Stephanie sits in the glider where she would have rocked Kelton to sleep. Jocelynn, 10, sleeps with her brother's blankie.
The family hopes another child eventually may use the room.
Stephanie and Chris are dedicating their energy to holding their family together and building a three-fold fundraiser. They've ordered a crate of golf balls bearing their son's footprints for a golf tournament on April 19 at Spring Lake Country Club. County Market has provided birthday cake for the kids' party at Gem City Gymnastics and Tumbling Center. TNT Action Sports will host a Poker Run on April 20.
Stephanie said preparing the fundraiser for Children's Hospital has made her all the things a new mother would be -- tired and cranky. As she copes with the death of her son, she clings to his purpose. She believes his short life will enrich the lives of other infants and help other parents who may return to their own empty nurseries.
"Your body takes over, and somehow, you just function," Stephanie said.
Forever Kelton Warrior Weekend
º The golf tournament will be April 19. Registration for the 18 hole scramble and lunch begins at 11 a.m. Hors d'oeuvres and an award ceremony will follow. Cost is $125 per person or $500 for a team of four. For more information call 222-5021.
º Kelton's first birthday party will be at 6:30 p.m. on April 19 at Gem City Gymnastics and Tumbling at 2010 Jennifer Lane. To attend call 224-8491. Food, refreshments and birthday cake will be provided.
º TNT Action Sports will host a poker run on April 20. Registration begins at 5101 Oak in Quincy at 10 a.m. For more information call 224-1004.