FERGUS FALLS, Minn. - An outpouring of support is growing for a Fergus Falls man who is enduring unimaginable tragedy, after becoming a father and widower in the same day.
Trent Pederson, 31, and his wife Tami, 29, were expecting their first child in August. The couple had been married for two years, but always dreamed of becoming parents.
"I knew she'd be a good mom because how organized she was.
It's hard to put into words how good she was," said Pederson.
His wife had the baby boy's nursery ready, with clothing folded, rows of diapers, the baby's name on the wall and a baby book already filled in.
Pederson says the day before Father's Day, Tami yelled for him in the night. He jumped out of bed to find her on the bathroom floor clutching a bottle of Tylenol.
"I asked her what is wrong," said Pederson, and said she replied: "I don't know."
Those were last words. Tami stopped breathing in his arms.
The ambulance took her to Lake Region Hospital in Fergus Falls, and then airlifted her to Sanford Hospital in Fargo. Life and death collided when doctors gave Pederson the devastating news. Tami had suffered a rare massive brain aneurism and was brain dead. A medical team rushed to save their baby by emergency c-section.
"She was such a caretaker and even in her last hour she was looking out for Jace, we don't know how he made it out," said Jamie Bertram, Tami's older sister. "She was protecting him."
Jace Jo Pederson was born June 16, 2012, weighing 5 pounds, 5 ounces, 7 and ¾ inches long, but doctors knew his mother's ordeal already put his life at risk, causing brain damage. They performed CPR for nine minutes to get his heart to beat properly. A medical team transported him to Children's Hospital in Minneapolis to monitor swelling on his brain.
"It's just something you don't plan for. It'd be like everybody shutting off the lights in this hospital and then you try and find your way out. I haven't found any light yet, that's for sure," said Pederson.
The community of Fergus Falls has come together to stand behind Pederson as he tries to care for Jace and deal with immeasurable grief.
This weekend, friends and family held "Race for Jace" and set up several funds for Jace's medical bills. He will likely require care for many years as doctors learn the extent of his brain damage.
Pederson also travels to Children's Hospital from Fergus Falls as often as he can to see Jace, while trying to keep his job at a cable company.
He says Jace will be hospitalized in the NICU for several more several weeks when he is stable enough to undergo surgery for a shunt. He is also on a feeding tube until he begins to accept bottle feeding. Bertram and other family members vow to be at Jace's side.
Bertram says doctors still don't know what caused her sister's aneurysm. She says after her death, she looked through her sister's phone and found Tami was searching the internet for causes of "bad headaches during pregnancy", even though she told no one she had a headache that day, not even her husband.
"But, he will always know who is Mama is," said Bertram. "He's got her cheeks, her chin and her nose."
Pederson picked up Jace's tiny finger, noticing his son has his mom's same "wrinkly hands".
"I still got a little piece of Tami," he said. He also made sure Jace now also shares his mother's middle name, of "Jo."
You can help the Pederson and his son by donating to the Jace Pederson Donation Fund at any Wells Fargo Bank.
The First National Bank of Herman in Herman, MN and the Gate City Bank in Fergus Falls, MN are also accepting donations written to the "Jace Pederson Fund."
A benefit breakfast and silent auction for Jace will be held Sunday, August 12th, from 9am-1pm in Herman at the Herman Fairgrounds in Tami's hometown.
You may remember a similar tragedy back in 2008, when Minnesota native Matt Logelin lost his wife Liz in the hospital the day after their daughter Maddy was born.
Logelin started a popular blog about his journey. It evolved into "The Liz Logelin Foundation" which today helps widows and widowers with young families.
(Copyright 2012 by KARE. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)