When Riverdale, Utah, mom Nicura Thompson gave birth to her fourth son, Colton, on October 21, she knew he wouldn't live a long life. She found out before he was born that he had DiGeorge syndrome — a chromosomal condition that can cause heart defects and problems with the immune system — and he wasn't expected to live past his teens.
But after just a few weeks spent at home with his older brothers, Colton went into cardiac arrest. Twenty days after that, the family said their goodbyes and took him off life support. Colton was just 6 weeks old.
"There are no words to explain holding your child as they struggle to breathe and they take their last breath," Thompson told TODAY. "There's no greater pain."
As they were sitting in the hospital on Colton's last day, however, Thompson's husband, Zachary, asked her about continuing to pump her breast milk after their son's passing. And that's when it dawned on her — she could donate her milk to other babies in need.
"I knew how important breast milk was to sick babies, including my son," the brave mom said. "It's liquid gold, and these babies need it so desperately."
So Thompson got to work: She already had 1,500 ounces of breast milk in the hospital freezer, and she donated it all. She's since continued pumping four times a day, every day — including the day of little Colton's funeral — and every last drop has gone to donation. And as it turns out, donating her breast milk has become the perfect way for Thompson to memorialize her son.
"I wanted to do something in his name, considering this was his milk," she explained. "It felt like I was keeping his memory alive through breast-milk donation and helping others."
Thompson donates her milk by dropping it off at a local hospital, which ships the bags to Colorado to be processed and pasteurized. So far, she's donated 4,600 ounces to babies in need. She's set herself a goal of 5,000 ounces — but she's willing to bump it up to 6,000 if she's able.
At the end of the day, Thompson, her husband, and their three boys (Logan, 8; Charlie, 7; and Kallan, 4) all miss Colton dearly. For that reason, pumping and donating her breast milk hasn't always been easy — but Thompson says she's just happy that some good could come out of her family's tragic situation.
"It was hard at first because I had to overcome the fact that that milk is supposed to go to my baby, but he's not here anymore," she said. "I thought it would bring sadness, but it really doesn't. It gives me a sense of relief knowing that it's going to other children who really, really need it."