Jacoby Gonzales, a dental assistant at our West OKC office, is about to become a dad. He and his wife, Kristen, are expecting twin boys any day now. Also eagerly awaiting baby brothers is their five-year-old daughter, Emmaline. But before Kristen or Emmaline or the twins, there was Penelope.
Penelope, affectionately called Penny, was a life changer for Jacoby, who was used to going through life a bachelor.
“I didn’t even know I had a daughter at first,” Jacoby said.
“Her mom ended up reaching out to me, probably when [Penny] wasn’t even older than two or three weeks. As soon as I found out about her I actually started asking her mom for permission to see if she could stay the night with me.”
“She started letting her stay with me,” Jacoby said. “I think it was the third night that I had her. It was a Wednesday night, I woke up Thursday morning and had received a text at like three in the morning from Penny’s mom saying that she wasn’t doing well, that she was leaving the state and leaving me with full custody of [Penny].”
Jacoby had nothing. He had only just found out he was a father and now, a single parent.
“I ended up calling [Dental Depot South OKC] and letting them know what my deal was,” Jacoby said. “Like, ‘I just got a baby and I don’t know what to do. I don’t have a daycare. I have nothing in line. I just need the next couple days off to figure this out.’ So they were really cool about it.”
In those first 48 hours, Jacoby was able to get Penelope’s medical card, food card, insurance information and vaccines. He was fortunate enough to be living at home at the time, so his mom and sisters were able to help him with his baby.
As he adjusted to life as a dad, he found companionship with a co-worker, Kristen, who recently became his wife. The couple got started over coffee breaks while swapping stories about their daughters. Jacoby even suggested a playdate for the girls.
“I became a dad. Like, a real dad,” Jacoby said. “Then, um, on June 19th, which was my first Father’s Day, I woke up and she was just…gone. She was black and blue and they say she passed away from SIDS.”
SIDS, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, is the unexplained death, usually during sleep, of a seemingly healthy baby less than a year old. It’s sudden and silent and parents often have no warning that their babies are in any danger.
Penny was six months and two days old.
Jacoby said he tried to heal the hurt of losing his child with alcohol. Eventually, though, Jacoby came back to his faith in the hope, he said, of being able to see Penny again someday. Jacoby isn’t alone in the way that he grieved, but he wanted to leave Penny with a positive legacy.
New parents have so much to worry about already, but unexpected funeral costs can cripple finances on top of the emotional burdens they create. But what if there was a way to protect babies all together, he thought?
Jacoby found out about a tech company called Owlet that creates special socks for babies that monitors their heart rate and pulse oxygen levels while they sleep, and alerts parents of any changes or concerns. The technology is lifesaving, but it can be costly for many families as each unit is $300.
“I was just there thinking one night, ‘Penelope…Penny…I call her Penny P, pennies!’ You always find pennies everywhere! I’ll call it The Penny P Foundation,” Jacoby said. “I wish I would’ve had that [Owlet Smart Sock] for Penny. But with the money that I raise, I’m gonna go to Owlet and see if they’ll be willing to put in the same money I do or figure out if there’s a way for me to buy a bunch of these socks and give them to families who want to use them, return them, and keep handing them out.
“Since I thought of the idea, I’ve been picking up pennies left and right. I have jars full of pennies at the house. It baffles me the amount of pennies I find out in front of my house because I don’t really carry change and my wife is on bed rest. But I like to think of it as [Penny] showing me she’s still here, leaving pennies behind.”
Jacoby says he’s looking forward to the whole baby process again, and glad to be able to fully participate from the beginning. As for his peace of mind, Dr. Mimi, Dental Depot’s pediatric oral surgeon, gifted Jacoby two of the Owlet Smart Socks for his twin boys.
“With two new kids I’m very nervous and I’m trying to be cautious,” Jacoby said. “These [socks] have warnings that go off; it may not actually be anything, but I told my wife the other day that I don’t care if it goes off five times a day, I’d rather be safe than sorry.”
Jacoby is figuring out what it means to be a dad on his own terms and says he wants to be everything for his children that his own father was not. He’s had positive male role models like his brother and uncle, and even Dr. George Bohle who he looks up to and has learned from.
“I actually kind of look up to Dr. Bohle. He’s gotten really far and he knows what’s he’s doing,” Jacoby said. “He does all kinds of stuff, not just dentistry, but then he goes home and he does his fatherly duties and takes care of work and takes care of home.”
Jacoby has a year left of prerequisites at Rose State College before he applies to hygiene school and is on track to become a hygienist by 2022. He says he’s still trying to decide if he wants to go further and become a dentist, but right now it’s more important to him to spend time with his boys while they’re young.
“Ever since Penny passed away, I look at life differently,” Jacoby said. “Even little things, like spending time with your spouse, I try not to take for granted. I could leave for work and something could happen at home and I could never get to speak to her again, so I look at things like that. Every time my family leaves, I tell them, ‘I love you.’”
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In addition to being a family man, Jacoby is an avid outdoorsman and a self-described fitness fanatic and loves eating healthy, working out every day, camping and going to the lake. Jacoby is also a musician: he plays guitar, drums, piano and sings.
For more information on Owlet’s Smart Socks, visit https://owletcare.com/
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Jacoby was nominated for Employee of the Month by his coworkers at Dental Depot West OKC.
“He is always willing to help out everyone not only his team, will ask Dr. Keaster’s team if they need help or will just go into their sterile lab to help them get instruments caught up. He has always been willing to work on his day off – (Saturday) if needed with Dr. Mimi. He never comes up to my desk with any complaints and is always smiling and no matter how bad I feel Jacoby seems to make me smile with either a pat on the back or a goofy comment.” – Gail Maxon, assistant manager at Dental Depot West OKC.
“Jacoby is always positive and has the best attitude. He always wants to help with whatever task is at hand. Jacoby is so friendly with his patients and co-workers. He gives his job his all and does it with a smile. Overall A+ employee and person.” – Tara Hill, director of clinical & compliance operations.
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Dental Depot is a locally owned and operated family company. As such, we believe that the incredible group of doctors, hygienists, assistants and staff that make up Dental Depot are more than their job titles; they’re members of our extended family. In our family, we like to recognize when someone goes above and beyond, living the Dental Depot values. This July, we are proud to shine a spotlight on Employee of the Month Jacoby Gonzales.