Peter and Becca Northcott got their wish a year ago: Against long odds, they became parents. Then, with an assist from a few select charities, came the family’s miracle.
Last year at this time, I wrote a column here headlined “Five Nonprofits and a Baby.” The column told the story of Peter Northcott and his wife, Becca, and the adoption of their baby girl, Philomena. The column concluded, “There is one more wrinkle on this story, but I think we’ll save that one for next year.”
With next year having arrived, it is time to finish telling the arguably miraculous story of the Northcott family. In the way of refresher, the first nonprofit in this story was a small traditional Catholic school in Shawnee, Kan., called “Padre Pio Academy.”
It was there some 15 or so years ago that I met Peter. I volunteered once a week to teach the high school kids journalism, and he was one of my students.
After Padre Pio and the University of Kansas, Peter worked in a series of increasingly responsible positions for the state of Kansas. As a political appointee, his job was always vulnerable, but he was riding a favorable enough tide that he felt free to marry and start a family.
As Peter and Becca discovered, wanting a family is one thing—starting it is another. At age 13, Becca had developed an autoimmune disorder that damaged her kidneys. Despite a kidney transplant at 17, as she approached 30, Becca realized she would need a new one if she were to live a normal life.
While Becca waited for a kidney, an indeterminate wait, she and Peter decided that adoption might be the only safe way they could have a baby in their life. This is where non-profit No. 2 comes into the story, the St. Joseph’s Adoption Ministry of Kansas City, Kan.
“Kansas has by far the best adoption laws in America,” Peter told us last year, “but the sisters are able to do things that the government cannot do. They put their heart and soul into building and connecting families.”
St. Joseph’s identified a baby for the Northcotts who was to be born in Las Vegas. For no particularly good reason, Nevada laws make it difficult for a white couple to adopt a biracial child. Here, the Northcotts had an advantage. Becca is bi-racial herself.
The third non-profit in this story was the Church of the Ascension School in Overland Park, where Becca taught. When Becca told Principal Becky Wright about the challenges ahead, Wright astounded Becca by volunteering a kidney.
Overwhelmed as she was by the gesture, Becca knew from experience that a match was unlikely. This time, however, the “odds”—for those who choose not to believe in miracles—broke in the Northcotts’ favor once again.
A fourth and a fifth non-profit made the transplant possible. The fourth was the Midwest Transplant Network, and the fifth was Saint Luke’s Hospital of Kansas City. Principal Wright’s kidney arrived at Saint Luke’s on June 30, 2017, but the baby came early, on May 4, just a few days after Becca’s last class.
As Peter and Becca Northcutt discovered, wanting a family is one thing—starting it is another. Little did they know, but their dreams from a year ago were about to come true. Twice.
Peter and Becca spent seven intense weeks in Las Vegas waiting for baby Philomena to leave the hospital and returned home with their new little girl just nine days before the scheduled transplant.
The surgery was a success. Now comes the promised wrinkle: Within months of receiving her new kidney, Becca learned she was pregnant. The Northcotts asked that I not report the pregnancy in last year’s column because the complications the baby faced were daunting.
Early in the pregnancy, in fact, the Northcotts feared that Becca had miscarried. She did not, but her doctors worried that Becca’s anti-rejection medication could severely damage their son’s face or even his heart. “As you can imagine,” Peter tells me, “it was both wonderful and scary at the same time.”
By the third trimester, Becca was going to weekly check-ups at Saint Luke’s. Says an appreciative Peter, “Their nephrology department and maternal fetal specialists provided the highest quality care from start to finish.”
For all the excellent care Saint Luke’s provided, the Northcotts had an added assist. During the most uncertain period of her pregnancy, Becca was able to touch a relic of Pope John Paul II to her belly. “We knew that with all that faced the little guy,” says Peter, “that if he was born healthy, it was due to the intercession of the saint.”
On May 15, 2018, the aptly named John Paul Peter Northcott made his public debut at Saint Luke’s, as healthy as any baby born that day anywhere. “If it takes a village to raise a child, it took a small army of medical professionals to bring our son into this world,” says Becca, “not to mention the selfless kidney donation from Becky Wright.”
Adds Peter, “While we never would have planned it this way, those 12 months were more incredible than we could have imagined.” A year or so earlier, Becca had been facing a third precarious year on the kidney-transplant list. And now, the family had a new kidney and two beautiful babies. Incredible indeed.
“What’s amazing,” agree Becca and Peter, “is that the love we felt when we first saw our daughter was exactly the same as when our son was born. They couldn’t love each other more either.”
Before contacting Peter this year, I was a little apprehensive. I knew that the baby had arrived safely, but I was less certain about Peter’s future. I thought he worked for Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer.
No, Peter informed me, he was now the assistant state treasurer working under Jake LaTurner. On a night when the Kansas Republican candidate for governor netted 43 percent of the vote, the Republican candidate for treasurer, LaTurner, earned 58 percent. Political pundits advanced any number of reasons to explain LaTurner’s success. I have chosen to disregard them all. This Christmas, I prefer to believe that Saint John Paul II intervened—not to advance LaTurner’s career, but to keep those babies fed.