Starr Cookman and Kylee Moreland Fenton have been inseparable since childhood. They live on the same street. Kylee, a nurse, was present for the delivery of Starr's son, Rowan. And when Rowan came home from the hospital breathing rapidly and spitting up his food, both friends were alarmed — even when the pediatrician said he was doing fine.
"Then I said, 'I'm concerned. Why would he just for no reason be breathing a hundred times a minute?' " Kylee recalls asking. With that, the doctor sent them to the children's hospital. That visit saved Rowan's life. There was something wrong with Rowan's heart — and he was rushed to surgery.
"And I remember like looking at you and thinking, 'Wow, we really are two sides of the same heart,' " Starr tells Kylee. "Boy, if we ever wondered why we were given this friendship ..."
Rowan is now almost 13, and not a day goes by, Kylee says, that she doesn't look at her friend's son and think about how lucky they are to have him.
Audio produced for Morning Edition by Nadia Reiman.This story is part of a collection of interviews in Ties That Bind, a book by StoryCorps founder Dave Isay.
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
And it's time now for StoryCorps. Today, a conversation more than three decades in the making. That's how long Starr Cookman and Kylee Moreland Fenton have been friends, since their childhood in Tucson. They came to StoryCorps to talk about their friendship. We'll hear from Starr first.
STARR COOKMAN: I remember in the sixth grade, we were connected at the hip. And we made it official by our blood-sister ceremony. We took a cactus needle. I was going to prick your thumb; you were gonna prick my thumb. So it was time for me to prick your finger, and I just couldn't do it. So you pricked your own finger. And I think at that point, we knew that you were going to be a nurse.
KYLEE MORELAND FENTON: You said to me that people move places and change careers for our spouses. Why can't we do that for our friendship? That was a pretty tall order for a couple of 13-year-olds.
COOKMAN: And here we are. We're living right down the street from each other, and you were there during the delivery of my first child. I remember, we bring home Rowan from the hospital, and then I noticed that he had been spitting up his feedings.
FENTON: I remember just watching him breathe. He was breathing so fast, and I remember feeling very alarmed.
COOKMAN: So I called the pediatrician and the doctor took his pulses and they seemed OK. And of course, me wanting it to be all OK, I was like, you know, he's fine.
FENTON: Then I said, I'm concerned. Why would he just for no reason be breathing a hundred times a minute?
COOKMAN: And so then, well, the doctor says they're going to think I'm crazy at Children's Hospital, but I really think that you guys should go there and get a chest X-ray. So we went together.
FENTON: And the attending came in. He listened to his heart with his stethoscope; and he listened and he listened, and then he got up and he shut the door. And he came back, and he listened some more.
COOKMAN: And then he looks at me and says Rowan has something wrong with his heart. I think we're gonna need to admit him and do surgery as soon as possible. At that moment you knew instinctively what to do.
COOKMAN: And I remember like looking at you and thinking, wow, we really are two sides of the same heart. Boy, if we ever wondered why we were given this friendship...
FENTON: I don't think a day goes by that I don't look at that beautiful 6-year-old with that scar on his chest and think how lucky we are to have him.
GREENE: That's Kylee Moreland Fenton and her best friend, Starr Cookman, at StoryCorps in Hartford, Conn. Their interview will be archived at the Library of Congress. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.