After finishing off their second straight sweep to open the 2017 NBA playoffs, the Cleveland Cavaliers had some time on their hands while they waited to see which team they’d face in the Eastern Conference finals. In addition to resting up ahead of another series, J.R. Smith used his free time to do another important thing — coming up with a really sweet Mother’s Day idea to help brighten the days of some families who have been going through the same trying times as his own.
“Happy Mothers Day to ALL!” wrote Smith’s wife, Shirley Smith, in the caption of her Instagram post. “Beautiful flower arrangements that my husband had prepared for all of the mothers in NICU!”
Smith and his wife announced in January that she had given birth to their daughter, Dakota, five months before her expected delivery date. Five days after her birth, Dakota weighed just 1 pound.
“We decided to share with the world what’s been going on with our family in the past five days,” Shirley Smith said during a video message shared by Smith via Uninterrupted, the athlete-fronted digital media company co-owned by Smith’s Cavaliers teammate, LeBron James. “We know we’re not the only family going through this, has been through this or who will ever go through it.”
In fact, “about one in every 10 infants born in the United States in 2015, the most recent statistical year tracked by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” was a preterm birth, according to CNN. Outcomes for preterm babies can vary wildly. Surviving the first week stands as a significant milestone, but even those who do often still need to “stay in the hospital usually for as long as their pregnancy would have been, plus usually one or two months extra, depending on the complications associated with the prematurity,” according to Dr. Philippe Friedlich, chief of the division of neonatology and director of the center for fetal and neonatal medicine at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
Dakota has remained in the neonatal intensive care unit, or NICU, at Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital for several months, making incremental progress. One month after her birth, she’d gained enough weight that Smith was able to safely hold her for the first time. On Day 78, Dakota had improved to the point that doctors could remove her breathing tube. Two weeks ago, Dakota reached six pounds, a big milestone.
While Dakota continues to grow and develop, though, J.R. and Shirley have had to continue going back and forth from the arena and home to the hospital, a taxing process that has stretched on for months. From Tom Withers of The Associated Press:
“You can’t separate the two because it’s life and for me it goes hand in hand,” he said. “The life I live is because of basketball and one of the reasons I’m able to provide and have a family the way I have is because of my basketball stature and what I’ve been able to do at this point in my life. For her, that’s No. 1. That comes before this game or any other game.” […]
“I’ve got an unbelievable wife,” he said. “I can’t say enough about her because she’s been there literally all day, every day. For her to let me do that or let me do certain things is really cool and I appreciate that.”
On Mother’s Day, Smith decided to show his appreciation not only for his wife, but for all the mothers whose children are going through similar struggles, with a bright floral gift. From Shirley’s blog, MyKotaBear.com:
My husband came up with the brilliant idea of getting all of the mothers in the NICU flowers today so we did just that. When the flowers arrived I pushed the cart and [their older daughter] Demi placed an arrangement of flowers in every room…it was super special and we both enjoyed it. When Jr got there it was nap time for Kota Bear so she laid in her favorite spot (on her dads chest) and they both were out like a light.
Smith and the Cavs get back to work on Wednesday night, when they travel to Massachusetts to take on the Boston Celtics in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.
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