HOUSTON -- When Myron Cloyd from southwest Houston landed in London 13 years ago it was the most exciting, and most frightening, time of his life up until that point.
This past week he made a return trip to thank the people who helped hold the fragile threads of his family’s life together.
Cloyd, a ministry student, received a fellowship from TCU to study abroad. With a doctor’s permission his wife Gwendolyn, who was 22 weeks pregnant at the time, flew to London to join him. She never made it to their hotel. Complaining of severe back pain she was immediately taken to a British hospital where doctors informed her she was in labor.
"At the time for me it was the toughest thing I'd ever been through,” sayd Cloyd who stayed by his wife’s side as she struggled for four more weeks until their son Jackson was born. He weighed just 1 pound 10 ounces.
"I wanted to be a dad, man! And that was like my dream. And that was what I felt like the best thing I could ever be in my life was be a father. As a parent you're looking forward to the birth of your child with great anticipation and joy,” said Cloyd. “And just to have this fear about losing him!”
But after four months at Guy’s and St. Thomas’ Hospital in London they didn’t lose him. Jackson made it to five pounds. A midwife wrapped him in a home-made quilt she made especially for him and sent the Houston family home.
"Any little thing that somebody did to say ‘we care about you’ meant something. And it meant a lot,” Cloyd said of the light blue patchwork quilt with cartoonish scenes of animals from the English countryside.
"It's difficult for me to share in words sometimes and I'm a wordy guy. But I just appreciate it. You made all the difference in the world. You helped us at a time when we were at our least and our weakest and most broken. And you came and walked alongside us. You helped us."
Fast forward 13 years and Jackson Cloyd is adding a few threads of his own. He’s an 8th grader now and on his way to becoming an Eagle Scout.
“It was comforting,” he said of the 22-inch square quilt he still has that the nurses gave him as a preemie in 2000. And in need of a service project he and his dad agreed there was only one thing to do.
With the help of the Jubilee Quilting Circle at Houston’s Community Artists’ Collective, Jackson learned to sew. And over the course of several months he made eight more quilts of the same size. Each one has a label that says “from one preemie to another.” Because Myron Cloyd wouldn’t be making that return trip to London alone. Jackson would go with him to offer the quilts to other premature infants as a thank you to the medical team that made his life possible.
"I'm really excited. I can't wait. It's gonna be fun,” Jackson told us last week. "And I think it will give them like warmth and love and hope. The quilt, it gave my parents like hope and warmth and love. And so I figure if other people are going through that same situation that I could give them that same feeling through a quilt."
But Jackson’s mom wouldn’t be there this time. Gwendolyn Cloyd lost her battle with cancer in 2008. Jackson is making the return trip to the hospital of his birth as a tribute to his mom as well.
"I just miss her,” he said, like being around and stuff,” he said in his southwest Houston living room that surrounds him with pictures of his late mom. "I feel like it will make me closer to her because the quilt it comforted her a lot because she was stressed out a lot. So I figured I could give those quilts back and it would like honor her."
"I want him to know how fragile life is,” said Myron Cloyd. “And sometimes it hangs in the balance by a thread. But it's people helping you and being with you, even if they are strangers, giving of themselves so you can have life,” he said of the lessons learned by a quilt and the hospital workers who gave of themselves so Jackson would have a chance at life.
And last Friday Jackson and his dad did make it to that London hospital carrying the eight new quilts and a box full of toys for children at the Ronald McDonald House across the street from the hospital. Myron and Gwen Cloyd stayed there for free during Jackson’s first few months. Jackson got to deliver the quilts to Mary Mulkerrins, the social worker/midwife who gave him his quilt 13 years ago. Myron says there was laughter, lots of tears, and that Jackson even chose to speak to several of the parents in the neonatal intensive care unit to let them know miracles, like him, are possible.
"I'm giving back to people and I'm paying it forward so they can have a good life like me as well,” said Jackson. “It just feels good to help people who are going through the same thing that I went through."
"I've always thought I've been a proud Papa. But I'm like super, duper proud beyond what I could express now of him,” said Myron.
Jackson knows his mom would be proud too - proud of a one pound ten ounce miracle paying it forward one thread, one stitch, at a time.