Matt and Ginny Mooney from Arkansas couldn't wait to meet their first child. But six months into Ginny's pregnancy, the doctors shared devastating news: The baby wasn't going to make it. Their unborn child was suffering from Edwards syndrome, also called trisomy 18. This genetic disorder causes most babies to die in the womb or in the first few days after birth. Matt and Ginny were heartbroken, but they didn't give up hope.
Eliot Hartman Mooney was born two months later. He had underdeveloped lungs and a hole in his heart, but Eliot was alive. The first-time parents were so excited about the birth of their child that they celebrated it every day at 4:59 pm, the time of his birth.
After two weeks in the NICU, Eliot was allowed to go home with his mom and dad. The baby needed special care around the clock: His lungs needed extra oxygen and he was fed through a tube. He needed to be fed every three hours and the process was difficult, but Matt and Ginny felt lucky for every moment they had together.
When he was two months old, Eliot began sucking on his thumb, which was exciting because most babies with Edwards syndrome struggle to even open their fists. After three months, Eliot was no longer dependent on oxygen and tube-feeding. The parents took him to the hospital to show his doctors and nurses the progress he'd made. They were all stunned; few had expected him to survive his own birth.
But sadly, on his 99th day of life, Eliot's journey came to an end. The parents released 99 balloons at his burial, one for each day they got to spend with their son. "How beautiful it was to watch. How quickly they were gone, just like you," said Eliot's dad on a video dedicated to their son. "So today we celebrate. Although we miss you more than we could express, we're only separated from you by our time left on Earth. See you soon, son. Mom and Dad."