Although this young Texan man had just lost the love of his life owing to injuries sustained in a horrific car smash, there was a small glimmer of hope in the form of his newborn daughter. But while he thought he’d be able to take the baby home with him from the hospital, the glimmer was dimmed when the law stepped in.
Heather Trimble, 24, and James Gardner, 26, both lived near Dallas in Texas and were engaged to be married. However, then cruel fate intervened. On June 6, 2017, Trimble was traveling in a car on Highway 121 in Collin County, close to her home in Frisco, where she also worked as a nurse. She was with her mom, dad and four-year-old daughter from a previous relationship, Matilda.
Tragedy struck suddenly. The family group were driving near the small city of Anna when their car was caught up in a violent collision involving a total of five vehicles. Seasoned police officers at the scene later described it as one of the worst crashes they have ever had to deal with. Trimble’s parents, Julie and Wayne, were instantly killed as a result of the impact. The young Matilda was also injured.
Trimble, meanwhile, initially survived the accident, but her injuries were critical. And to complicate matters – and make them much worse – she was eight months pregnant at the time of the crash. With her life in the balance, then, she was rushed to the Medical City hospital in nearby Plano by emergency crews, who worked tirelessly to save the mom and her unborn child.
However, the odds were against them, and Gardner’s whole world fell apart. “I just lost my future mother- and father-in-law and the woman I loved and was going to marry and spend my life with,” he told Dallas-Fort Worth local news channel Fox 4 News in June 2017. “I just lost them all,” he continued. At least the grieving young man still had his newborn baby, though – but it was touch and go.
Doctors managed to deliver a one-month premature baby girl later that same day – despite Trimble suffering from extensively broken legs and bleeding on the brain. Both mother and daughter were placed on ventilators to assist their breathing. Tragically, though, Trimble would never get to see her new arrival. Her injuries were so severe that she passed away eight days later, leaving behind her utterly devastated fiancé.
The situation in the dispassionate eyes of the law was not quite so straightforward, however. As if losing the love of his life and his future in-laws wasn’t enough, there was something else to add to Gardner’s anguish. He was informed about a legal matter which meant that he was not allowed to take his baby girl home with him, and it involved Trimble’s ex.
Gardner knew that Trimble had been married to another man – the father of Matilda. Indeed, the biological dad was given custody of the little girl and took her home from hospital. But what Gardner didn’t know was that Trimble had remained legally married to the man, even though they had split up three years before the accident that took her life.
And although the other man was her estranged husband, it still led to a legal impasse. In light of the still-extant marriage, the law could not assume that Gardner was the father of Trimble’s baby and simply let him take the newborn home from hospital as he so desired. This technicality also led to problems with the baby’s birth certificate. Gardner knew his fiancée had wanted to call her daughter Hadley, but again, it just wasn’t that simple.
What’s more, as Gardner was not granted custody of the baby, he also wasn’t legally able to name her. Sadly, this meant that the baby girl’s birth certificate read “November BG” – BG signifying baby girl. And to add to the heartbreak, the spaces on the certificate where the mother and father’s names should have been entered were left blank.
Gardner later told Fox 4 News of the extremely mixed emotions he had experienced in the hospital when Trimble was still alive. “When I went to Heather’s bedside, it was nothing but sorrow and pain,” he said. “And then when I went to the nursery, it was joy and happiness.” But again, Gardner was thrown into confusion. The delight and love he felt when looking at his baby daughter was now tainted by sadness and anxiety surrounding the legal issues.
That said, with Trimble’s elder daughter Matilda being safely looked after by her biological dad, Gardner could focus on the future wellbeing of the newborn baby. The future was looking very uncertain indeed, however. Gardner knew what he had to do, though, and he resolutely planned to devote every day to the task at hand in tandem with his work as a plumber.
“I wake up. I file paperwork. I make calls to the hospitals, lawyers and caseworkers,” he told Fox 4 News about his new regime. He also spoke of his frustration at the levels of legal bureaucracy in view of his personal tragedy. “Heather has passed away,” he said. “What do you want me to do? She can’t sign your documents now. It’s just mind-boggling to think anyone would have to deal with this on top of the crash.”
In what must have been an incredibly testing time, the grieving Gardner somehow managed to keep going, though. But enduring the whole legal process in addition to his loss certainly wasn’t easy on him. “I really don’t think it could get any worse,” he told Fox 4 News. “The amount of wrong turns this thing has taken is really mind-boggling.”
In order to navigate the legal system, Gardner made sure to hire an attorney at law to help steer him in the right direction. Meanwhile, another lawyer – a specialist in family law not involved in the case – advised Fox 4 News. He said, “Because she was married to him at the time of the birth of the child, the actual father, legally speaking, is a presumed father – which is her husband.”
Thankfully, however, Trimble’s former partner – the “presumed father” – was fully willing to co-operate with the legal proceedings. He has granted permission for a DNA test to be carried out to confirm Gardner’s claim of being the biological father of the newborn. Not only that, but he also approved Gardner’s request to be allowed to take the baby girl home.
Now Trimble’s daughter is living in Greenville, TX, with Gardner, who never saw himself being a single father – before the terrible crash that took away his fiancée. He will also be glad to put Trimble’s name for her unborn baby – Hadley – on the girl’s birth certificate once the paternity issues are fully resolved.
And as for the little one who had such a traumatic start to life? Baby Hadley is, thankfully, thriving. “She’s doing great,” Gardner proudly told Fox 4 News. “And she’s beautiful… Oh, she’s beautiful. Sorry, I gotta take a deep breath,” he continued, clearly overwhelmed by the emotion of it all. Gardner has also taken Hadley to see big sister Matilda.
Yet although there’s a silver lining to this story, there will always, naturally, be a truly heartbreaking element to it, too. Trimble, of course, never met her new baby daughter. “One of my largest regrets for her is that she couldn’t even see Hadley before she went,” the dad told Fox 4 News.
But while Hadley doesn’t have the good fortune of having her mother to care for her as she grows up, one thing is for sure: she is lucky enough to have a committed and loving father. Yes, and Gardner appears to be coping well with the adjustment to being a dad. In August 2017 he wrote on his Facebook page, “We are good and Hadley is getting bigger fast.”