When I first signed up for the Portland Love Show I knew that I wanted to do a piece about my best friend's daughter, Kendra. While my friend Melissa was taking a study course in Illinois for a med school test, her daughter Kendra was born at 24 weeks gestation. Melissa was told bluntly by the neonatal team that she had only a 25% chance of survival. Kendra was born 1 pound 6 ounces but to her mother’s and the doctors’ surprise, she kicked out and cried on her own upon entering the world. She had a fighting spirit! At that moment, Melissa knew she had to have the doctors try to save her.
While Melissa was in Illinois she would send email updates about Kendra's health, and ask for people to concentrate their prayers/positive thoughts/healing energy on what Kendra was struggling with the most at the time, which were usually her heart and lungs. While I was knitting her baby blanket I would picture her heart and lungs complete, strong, and healthy. I would send her my love and positive thoughts everyday, as would all of Melissa's friends and family. The first thing I thought of when presented with the topic for the show was how strong Melissa's love is for her daughter and how it was such a strange and powerful kind of love we all felt for a person that we'd never met. I wanted the center of the painting to be the heart and lungs I visualized, and I included thread in the pattern of a heartbeat to represent the yarn from the blanket I was knitting while I prayed for her. I wanted the whole image to be a take off of the sacred heart image in religious paintings, because the piece was basically a visual prayer for her health.
Kendra came home in September, and while she is still fragile and struggles with health complications, she is doing incredibly well and is a beautiful and happy baby. Her family still struggles with finances though, because of Kendra's hospital bills and Melissa having to take time off of medical school. I'm writing this blog post partially to tell the story behind the painting, and partially to bring awareness to this young family's situation. If my painting is sold I'm going to give half the profit to Kendra's family because while I don't have money it's a small way I can help. If anyone else wants to help them financially an account has been set up with Wells Fargo under Kendra Kjos's name. Just walk into any Wells Fargo bank and give them the name “Kendra Kjos” and you can donate to her trust fund. Any amount helps, and if people chip in just a little bit it can add up over time. I hope to see some of you at the Portland Love Show!