When Haley Parke gave birth to her second son on Dec. 2, she was able to meet him and give him a quick kiss before he was whisked away.
In what Parke describes as a “bittersweet” circumstance, the newborn, named John Beeson Parke and nicknamed baby Jb, was taken to a hospital room two floors above the delivery room to meet his dad and namesake, John Brinton Parke, who went by the nickname Jb.
Jb Parke, of Connecticut, was at the end of a nearly one-year battle with a rare type of kidney cancer when a nurse placed his newborn son on his chest.
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“Our labor and delivery nurse was the one who brought [baby Jb] up, and she told us later that all of his vitals improved,” Haley Parke, 28, told “Good Morning America.” “And from the time baby Jb was placed on my husband’s chest, we had about 35 to 40 minutes together.”
Jb Parke, 33, died on Dec. 2, leaving behind an 18-month-old son, Brinton, in addition to his wife and newborn son.
“He was a fighter,” Haley Parke said of her husband of three years, whom she met through work in 2016. “He was he wasn’t really ever willing to give up. He wanted to keep fighting for his family.”
Jb Parke, a former all-star baseball player who went on to work for an aviation company, was diagnosed with cancer in January 2021, when his oldest son Brinton was 6-months-old.
Facing a very rare form of the disease, he underwent surgery in January to remove his left kidney, which had a tumor the size of a softball, according to Haley Parke.
Around four months later, as Jb Parke was undergoing chemotherapy treatments and participating in clinical trials, the couple decided to move forward with having a second child.
“Since the diagnosis was terminal, we decided to make the choice to get pregnant 10 months postpartum from our first son,” said Haley Parke. “We wanted to make sure that our son had a sibling and that my husband would have, we were hoping, more time with our second son.”
Haley Parke became pregnant in April using a frozen embryo the couple had stored after undergoing in-vitro fertilization (IVF) to get pregnant with Brinton.
“Pretty much every scan showed continued growth and continued spread throughout his entire body, so nothing was really touching the cancer,” she said, adding that she and Jb tried to stay positive and hopeful that doctors could extend his life further than expected. “We just tried to stay positive and keep our heads up and keep looking forward.”
Kate Parke, Jb Parke’s younger sister, said she witnessed her brother and sister-in-law’s strength firsthand through those hard months.
“I just watched Haley and my brother continuously show up for each other,” she said. “Even when he was very sick, he planned a surprise sprinkle for for her last month.”
“He always put his family first,” Kate Parke continued. “Even when he physically couldn’t do things, he made sure that they knew they were appreciated and they were his first priority.”