If you've had the pleasure of receiving a hug from Kevin Howard, the current keyboard player for the Rich Girls, it was probably one of the best hugs you've ever received in your life. A lot of sincerity, as well as incredible strength, comes through his skinny body.
On January 21, his wife Becki — who plays violin in the band Bethan alongside Kevin and is also director of programming at AT&T Performing Arts Center — went in for a routine pregnancy check-up and the doctor noticed that her blood pressure was high. They found out she had severe preeclampsia and would have to have emergency surgery the following day. The baby had to come out.
"I think we were in denial of that during the first day," Becki says. "I went in thinking we would get situated and I would be on bed rest for three months. Over the course of the day, it became more clear to us how kind of grave the situation was. By the 22nd, when we heard the words 'life or death,' was when we realized this was actually happening."
They went through with the surgery and baby Felix made his entrance 12 weeks earlier than expected. Weighing in at a little over two pounds and just 14 inches in length, Felix will be in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Baylor hospital for at least the next nine weeks.
After Felix arrived, Becki and Kevin received a lot of feedback from people who had experienced premature birth. And the Howards didn't know that Baylor's NICU is at Level 3, the highest rating a NICU can have. "They have procedures that maximize the health of the babies," Becki says. "It's been as easy as it can be, considering how difficult the situation is."
The family set up a website documenting the day-by-day news. Stories as simple as Felix squeezing Kevin's chest hair can't help but bring about a smile. "Any little thing he's done — normal, little things — are bringing joy to us," Becki says. "It's neat to see him do things like that."
"Little things in this crazy situation," Kevin adds.
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Dallas' music scene is responding to the family's plight, Over the weekend, Gavin Mulloy, marketing director at Trees, told the Howards that a benefit show was going to happen at Trees this Thursday, February 4. Sarah Jaffe, the Vandoliers and Kaela Sinclair would be part of the show, along with DJ sets from Taylor Rea and DJ Empty Cilinder.
The people behind it are fans of the Rich Girls, or of bands that both Kevin and Becki have played in together, such as The Crash That Took Me and Bethan. Others have worked with Becki at her day job at the AT&T Performing Arts Center as director of programming. "We know we have friends, but I have been utterly blown away by the kindness that's been extended to us, and the texts and the notes. I can't even really put it into words how thankful we are," Becki says.
"We were scrolling through Facebook and seeing all these different bands jump on board, [and] we just broke down over chips and salsa from Chili's," Kevin adds. "It crushed us how humbling it's been."
Josh Fleming, frontman for the Vandoliers, has plenty of nice things to say about the couple. "Throughout mine and [my wife] Lindsey's relationship, the Howards have been a source of positivity and guidance on how to be a married couple in a big city," he says." I can't tell you how warm these people are, you just need to say hello to either one of them and you will feel it immediately."
When Fleming heard about the intensity of the situation, he felt helpless. "When Gavin asked me and the Vandoliers to be a part of a benefit concert, that helpless feeling was replaced with the ability to act," he says. "Thankfully we have a strong community of fellow artists, friends, concertgoers and others who repeatedly help those in rough times. Not every city can say that. Though the talent on this bill is jaw-dropping, and to be a part of it is an honor, I think everyone on the bill feels it is our responsibility to make sure Kevin and Becki get the help they need."
"The fact that I can get behind my drums and help other people is an exciting opportunity," adds Vandoliers drummer Guyton Sanders. "It just goes to show that anyone can help another person in any way. I'm honored to be playing this benefit show for my friends, Kevin, Becki and their new family. "
Adds Taylor Rea, "The Howards have always given their time and support to the music and arts community. We are fortunate to have such selfless people in our lives."
Donations will be taken at the door and there's a baby registry on the family's site. They haven't seen the hospital bill yet, so any donations would be helpful. "If this was one of my friends going through this, I would want to help them," Becki says. "It wouldn't be about if they needed it more than someone I didn't know. Maybe this has been a lesson in learning when to accept someone's help."
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The Howards' workplaces have been incredibly understanding about the situation. Kevin, who works as an environmental health specialist for the city of Garland, has received an outpouring of support from his boss. Co-workers have even offered their own time off to him. Becki will go back to work when the doctors say she can, but she'll go on maternity leave once Felix is released from the hospital.
"Every tiny thing is positive at this point," Becki says about Felix's improvement. "Every little victory is important. We're just trying to take every one of those victories with hope."