Their son was born perfect from head to toe, or so the doctors thought. Days after his birth, however, his health deteriorated. He was born with five congenital heart defects and would have to undergo extensive heart surgery to save his life.
The boy underwent the surgery at 12 days old, followed by stomach surgery five weeks later, then another heart surgery when he was 10 months old. The couple lived from moment to moment at the children’s hospital.
It would have been fair to call those days of exhaustion, worry, and anticipation “dark days,” but the couple saw hope grow with each miracle. Their son, defying all odds, stabilized and began his path to recovery. The mother recalls:
They always say that behind every scar, there’s a really amazing story, and behind our son’s scars there’s a lot of darkness, but there’s also so much strength and so much hope. While we’ve had really dark moments here, we look at the children’s hospital as a miracle place. A place that fixed a heart that wasn’t working, a surgeon that operated on a heart the size of a walnut, and made it work. That’s a miracle. That’s a bright, bright story. Not a dark story.
In those moments of gratitude the couple were inspired to honor their son’s heart surgeon and to help other children. But as they sought ways to contribute to the hospital, they were surprised at how difficult it was to give. Says the mother:
No one came to us. We asked to speak with some people, and we said, ‘What would benefit this hospital?’ We were disappointed that no one even approached us, and that we had to ask several times to get someone to even come to speak with us. It almost came to the point where we were so frustrated that we weren’t going to give anything because we couldn’t even get ahold of someone.
Eventually, they were able to get a response from a development professional. The couple donated a state-of-the-art MRI machine and a media center, the first of what would be many contributions. The couple became increasingly engaged with the hospital. They shared their story at the annual ball. They’ve spoken at other events. They’ve gotten their friends involved.
Their philanthropy has been tremendously meaningful—and healing. The mother explains:
I think giving empowers you. I think you can either let the disease state overtake you and your life and say, ‘Woe is me,’ or you can say ‘This is what we’ve chosen to do, and I take the power to help my child and family to help others.’
The father acknowledges that it may be uncomfortable for healthcare professionals to talk about philanthropy with family members. But, he firmly believes hospitals should make it easier to contribute, and that physicians should be involved.
Not the “hard ask,” but talking about what they hope to do, what’s next on the horizon, and how children could be benefitted by it. If there’s a way to bridge the grateful family with the doctor who loves talking about it, that would be a good thing. Those conversations could easily happen.
Today, their son is a strong five-year-old, but he will need more surgery. His work is not done, and neither is the work of his parents.