Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Paying it Forward

Amidst all the painting this past weekend, Jeramie and I took a break on Saturday night to head over to Duke University Medical Center.


Side note: A few months ago, I was asked if I would be interested in joining a council made up of other parents whose child had stayed in the PICU (pediatric intensive care unit) or PCICU (pediatric cardiac intensive care unit). Of course, I said yes!

Myself, along with a handful of other parents, and Duke staff members began the Family Advisory Council in October. Our main goal is to move both pediatric intensive care units to a family-centered care approach. Don't get me wrong. Duke is an incredible hospital and I believe the doctors there could hold their own against some of the top-notch doctors across the world. However, the pediatric floor has a long way to go before it could really be considered "family centered". Since our first meeting three months ago, tons have changes have already been made! We are thrilled to have such a strong voice within the hospital that has taken such good care of our babies, and it's wonderful to have support from so many staff members!


So, back to Saturday night. After a successful fundraiser back in November, the council felt it was time to plan our first event. Everyone rallied together and we were able to plan a great dinner for the families currently in the units. Saturday night was the perfect culmination of our efforts!

Jeramie and I spent our time in the cardiac unit with the families there. We had such good conversation with the parents of these sick, sick babies. As much as I wanted to be strong for those families, tears were all that would come at some points. You could see the hurt in their eyes and, at times, I felt as if I was looking in a mirror. In fact, one dad watched me bring load after load of food into the unit and we joked about hoping everyone was hungry. Then he asked, "So, what church are y'all from, anyway?" I stopped, looked him in the eye and said, "No church, sir. We're just parents who have sat where you're sitting and have felt what you're feeling. We just want to help." His eyes welled up with tears and he was able to squeak out a thank-you. I hope I never forget that moment.

Later, two moms came in to get some food. They both willingly shared the stories of their children and it seemed as if they were just waiting for someone who would listen. Then, at one point, one mom looked at the other and said, "Isn't your baby right beside mine?" The other mom confirmed, then they traded names and promised the other they would pray for their child. In that moment I realized that these moms have been sitting by their babies' beds for 2-3 months now and, for whatever reason, have never reached out to the other. All it took was a few slices of pizza and sharing stories. I've thought about these two moms everyday since Saturday. I pray that God continues to bring them together to encourage and support one another along the difficult road they've been asked to walk.


Another side note: In regards moms supporting moms: a few days ago, I got an e-mail from a friend of mine. We met in the PCICU in April of 2009. Ethan had just coded and her son had just been born. God planted us smack dab in front of each other, literally, and her friendship has been irreplaceable. Her words in the e-mail brought me to tears, and I asked her if I could share it. This seems like an appropriate time as ever to do so, and nothing says, "I get it" like reading something like this:
"...I can't help but feel bonded to you guys after watching what all he went through and what we as their parents endured during those long PCICU days. No one else understands what you've been through like someone who went through the same thing you did. You and me, trekking over to the pump room every three hours, just so you could squeeze out whatever ounces of milk you could for your son, thinking that maybe if you gave them some of your lifeforce would help give them the extra strength they needed to get through. Crying and prayers as tears stream down your face, dripping down to the breast that so eagerly wanted to nurse that sweet baby boy. The ache your heart felt, longing to hold him in your arms and cover him with kisses, instead of leaning over the hospital bassinet, trying to avoid knocking a sensor off or pressing down on the breathing tube ... We love you guys and hope to see you again soon! Maybe us mothers could meet up one Saturday afternoon and have coffee and shop with our boys, like other mothers do!"
If you're reading this from the waiting room of an intensive care unit, or from your baby's bedside, look across the room. Chances are, there's another mama feeling just as helpless as you are, who's just aching for someone to share those feelings with. Char -- thank you, my sister from another mister.


After the families had gotten their fill, we invited the nurses and doctors to eat. It was so nice to be able to give back to them, and catch them up on Ethan. Pizza doesn't even come close to being enough to say thank you for everything they do, but I think they enjoyed it nonetheless!

I feel so blessed to be a part of this council. Serving families (whether it be through food, or emotional support) in critical medical situations is what I feel called to do. I look forward to what we'll be able to do in the future; I really feel like God is going to use this group to serve Duke in a mighty way, and to bring me a little closer to His heart in the process.


Jenn said...

I am so happy ya'll are on the council! I can't wait to reap the benefits of your work in a few months. Well, I can wait, but I am glad to know that you are all taking care of the parents up there. Love you girl!

Dana Enzor said...

Wow. Thanks girl for this post. I about cried in your response to this father.

I couldn't imagine a better team of parents that could reach out to these families. As much as I care about and love you guys, I do not know what it's like to be in your shoes. This group is truly a blessing to Duke, and the families living at Duke.

Thank you for this, it reminds me how simple words of love and a little pizza can really mean a lot.

Carolina Carters said...

How awesome! I was definitely in's amazing how being back in that environment brings back all of those emotions, even when you're just visiting.

Sounds like an amazing council you all have and I can't wait to see what else you do! :)

Anonymous said...

How wonderful it is for you guys to give back in this way.

I had no idea how involved you were with this councel and I think it is absolutely awesome!

I am sure the parents welcomed the food and the company, especially since they knew you sat where they are sitting, someone who truly understands what they are feeling.

I am sure your it does your heart good to provide this act of kindness for others.

It seems that God is using you in ways you never imagined!

Love always,
Grandma A.

Stefenie said...

What a wonderful thing you are doing to help other families Joye!

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