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UT alum creates foundation to honor son

Precious Metal Prints is in collaboration with the project.
DJ and Amy Neil are memorializing their late son through the Luke Hudson Neil Foundation.
DJ and Amy Neil are memorializing their late son through the Luke Hudson Neil Foundation.(UT)
Published: Sep. 13, 2021 at 3:20 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Since 2012, the Precious Prints Project at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s College of Nursing has offered free fingerprint charms to families that have lost a child, according to a UT spokesperson.

Precious Metal Prints is in collaboration with the project.

Amy Neil, a nurse who is an alumna from UT, remembers speaking to a woman about the recent loss of a child and noticing a small silver fingerprint on a necklace that the woman had.

“She had a pretty amazing story,” said Neil. “Her child passed away in a hospital out of state. She heard about the Precious Prints Project and obtained a charm with her late child’s fingerprint.”

Neil, who works as an oncology nurse practitioner at University Cancer Specialists, knows the pain of losing a child all too well.

Neil and her husband, DJ, had struggled with infertility for years, according to a statement.

In a final effort, the couple went through a round of vitro fertilization and found out they were expecting in November of 2019.

“I had a good pregnancy,” said Neil. “I never felt ill, no nausea, nothing. My pregnancy was perfect. All my labs, ultrasounds and fetal heart rate were testing good. We had a healthy baby!”

At 27 weeks, Neil suffered from complications and was sent to a local medical center. She was then diagnosed with preterm premature rupture of membranes and transferred to another medical center, where she was admitted and monitored for several weeks, a release said.

Neil went into labor two weeks later and Luke Hudson Neil was born on May 9, 2020. Luke weighed less than three pounds.

He was rushed to the neonatal intensive care unit at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital, officials said.

“Luke was in distress,” said Neil. “He suffered from deceleration of heart rate along with other health conditions. None of this was ever expected.”

Luke passed away that same day while surrounded by family.

A nurse offered Neil a Precious Print. She now has a small tangible memory of her son, a silver pendant necklace with his fingerprint, provided by the Precious Prints Project.

After Luke passed, Jennifer Hong, Neil’s sister, and another UT alumna knew she needed to help in some way.

“As I was holding Luke, I glanced down at him and made a promise,” said Hong. “I promised that everyone would know who he was.”

Hong approached Neil with the idea of creating a foundation in Luke’s honor, according to a UT spokesperson.

In February, the Luke Hudson Neil Foundation was officially created. Hong now serves as its president.

“The foundation is here to celebrate Luke’s life and all the babies who have left this world way too soon,” said Hong.

The foundation serves as a base to support and potentially grow the Precious Prints Project, with all the proceeds it raises going directly to the project.

The Precious Prints Project has provided nearly 1,300 prints to families who have lost a child.

“My intent in telling Luke’s story is to honor him, acknowledge his life and death,” said Neil. “Luke deserves for his name to be spoken and he deserves to make his little mark on this big world.”

The Precious Prints Project will host the annual Sprint for the Prints 5K virtually from September 18 to 25. Proceeds will help provide a necklace pendant to families like the Neils who have lost a child. Learn more about the race or register here.

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