Holding his firstborn child in his arms should be the happiest time of Derek Ellison’s life. But seeing the baby’s mother in his son’s face brings a mix of emotions – a feeling he describes as "a gift and a curse."
Ellison's girlfriend, Kayla Katler, was more than 6 months pregnant when she went to the doctor for a severe headache. A few days later, she died from a blood clot in her brain.
Doctors were able to save her baby, who weighed only 3 pounds, 6 ounces when he was born.
"I have my moments of, ‘Why me? Why would we be brought together just to be ripped apart?’” Ellison said. "I went into this looking forward to raising a son with Kayla and in one minute I became a single father."
This single father now visits his son every day in the neonatal intensive care unit at Tarzana Providence Medical Center in Tarzana, where a picture of Katler is on display next to their sleeping baby.
Ellison says the overwhelming support he's receiving from the Simi Valley community is helping him through this difficult time. Donations of diapers, clothing, car seats and baby furniture have been pouring in, all in response to a Facebook page set up by friends called Support Baby Brayden Ellison.
“You got strangers from all across California reaching out to me offering anything they can," Ellison said.
Friends are also trying to raise money for Brayden's college fund on GoFundMe.com. Providing for Brayden's future is something Ellison says he and Katler talked about.
"We had plans for Brayden 20 years from now," the father said.
They are now years in which Brayden will hear stories about his mother, about the many ways a community rallied around his father and about the other lives saved by his mother's gift of organ donation.