By Melinda Munson
Jen and Brian Larsen will honor their second born child, Leif Aleutian, (Oct. 11, 2019 – October 13, 2019) with the third annual Leif’s Legacy 5K Run on Sept. 3 at 8:30 a.m. Billed as a fun run, Jen hopes that non-runners “will walk their dog, dance it – or skateboard it.”
At around 22 weeks into her pregnancy with Leif, Jen started experiencing severe bleeding. Medevaced out of Skagway to Juneau, then sent to Seattle, she was diagnosed with complete placenta previa and placenta percreta. Leif was delivered at 26 weeks premature via c-section.
“He was really big for his age but his lungs weren’t quite developed,” Jen said.
The Larsens lost their son 52 hours after his birth.
Jen said she struggled with thoughts of suicide after Leif’s death. She had never heard of the medical conditions that caused her complications, and resulting hysterectomy. She didn’t know that one in four women in the U.S. will experience infant loss.
“It’s a staggering statistic,” she said.
The family started to heal and contemplated how they could honor Leif and help others struggling with similar trauma. They formed the Leif Aleutian Foundation, a non-profit organization registered in New Jersey, where the Larsens live half the year. They organized their first fun runs in 2020, with one held in Skagway and a second in New Jersey. The proceeds from the runs are split in half between Dahl Memorial Clinic in Skagway and Shore Medical Center’s Special Care Nursery in Somers Point, New Jersey.
This year, the Larsen’s four-year-old daughter, Melody, will run with her brother, Axel, seven months. When Jen had her hysterectomy, her ovaries were left intact, allowing her and her husband to produce embryos. With the help of a gestational carrier, Axel, whom Jen calls her rainbow baby, was born in January.
Jen hopes the races and the foundation will be an outreach to families who experience pregnancy or infant loss. She said that while the community assisted her family immensely, “The actual support for helping someone get through this intense grief of losing a child was minimal.”
“These experiences happen, unfortunately. We survived,” Jen said.
Race participants can sign up online at the following link or from 7:30 to 8:30 the day of the race at Pullen Pond. https://runsignup.com/Race/AK/Skagway/LeifsLegacy5kRunWalkALASKA?fbclid=IwAR00bHi-iUqZPY93Rcrhqpnfg1kC_K8cBjA_RZnIW6g2HbcEfYNRogAIog0