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Lessons from the Scariest Moment of My Life

I interrupt this business blog to bring you a sad, personal story. Don’t worry. Because I don’t want you to tune out and because I think we’ve all had a lot of sad lately, here’s a spoiler alert: This story has a happy ending.

Exactly four years ago, I spent this very week and the next week in the Pediatric ICU at Scottish Rite Children’s Hospital in Atlanta where I lived at the time. My husband and I found ourselves there unexpectedly as our 6-week-old daughter contracted RSV – a small acronym for a hard-to-say virus that basically makes it impossible for some babies to breathe. Adults and children apparently get RSV too, but it masquerades as a typical cold. We were veteran parents to older children, but RS what? This was new, and confusing, and mostly terrifying. She fought the virus for two days and only got worse. Our pediatrician told us to get to the hospital as quickly as possible and shortly after being admitted, she actually stopped breathing. See what I mean, terrifying.

Life in the PICU was a day-to-day waiting game. At the time, we lived in the ‘burbs of ATL where going “up the road” meant you’d likely be gone for hours, and “did you go potty?” and “remember to bring a snack.” The hospital was 25.7 miles from our house, so in ATL time, about 100 hours. Sarcasm aside, the trek from our house to our new daughter’s side felt like an eternity, which meant we often relied on kind strangers and friends to hold down the home front while we posted ourselves upright, day and night, in her PICU room chairs.

The experience was terrible for obvious reasons. We were watching our little girl - oversized cannulas in her nose - literally fight for every breath and cringed as incredible doctors and nurses treated her with oxygen and IV’s and x-rays and suction in-between. There were moments where I found myself completely overwhelmed with worry, but for the most part, we had our game faces on. The adrenaline left us somewhat immune to how much time had passed or how little sleep we had gotten.

We even managed to find bright spots. Like a nurse named Emma who made our oblivious daughter a special sign and closed the curtains of our glass room so we could enjoy a “date night” while we ate Carraba’s Italian and watched Alabama finally get beat by Clemson in the National NCAA Championship (my business partner will hate this memory but it must be told). Or the military veteran respiratory therapist who was the size of a bodybuilder but had the demeanor of a teddy bear and always made us laugh or smile even after he administered the worst possible treatment – threading tubes through our daughter’s nostrils to get to her lungs so he could suction out whatever junk had built up in the couple of hours since the last time he visited us. Or the fact that we had an epic snow event, which made for a beautiful view out our single PICU window (and an interesting traffic-free but also salt-free drive home to get fresh clothes). Or even the small blessing that we could work remotely so we didn’t have to leave her side (an especially impressive benefit in hindsight).

After two weeks, we got to go home, a moment memorialized by a cell phone snapshot of an 8-week-old baby strapped into a baby carrier wearing a good riddance smile on her face. She had survived, we had survived, but the weight of what we had endured was just catching up.

I remember a lot about that moment in our lives, especially when the now very obstinate little girl (dare I say fighter?) tests my patience almost daily. I remember the sounds, the smells, the faces, but mostly I remember just how difficult figuring out the essentials was! I mean figuring out the shower, how to sleep in a chair, how to get clean clothes, when to get clean clothes, how to handle the rest of our family, where to get meals, the cost of the meals, if I get a meal now, will something happen while I am gone… It was an extremely complex dance that we managed through, but the logistics involved with “moving in” to the PICU made an already difficult situation that much harder.

Prior to our experience, I never even thought about this dynamic. But fortunately, today, it stays with me and led me to the reason I’m sharing this sad, but happy story. Our latest venture at FDLC is with the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Kentuckiana, a partnership forged right out of my family’s own experience and the passion it gave birth to.

Despite how much I personally believe in the value of relatability and the importance of being genuine, I’ll admit that sharing my daughter’s story isn’t exactly an easy one. Who would want to relive that? I get teary and stuffy and yuck, it’s not a good look. That said, recognizing what we went through made me realize I have a responsibility to do something good with it. I never was a beneficiary of the house in Atlanta, but that makes me that much more protective of what I know they give to families in some of their worst possible moments. They give families exactly what I know we needed four years ago.

Today, I love working with our local Louisville house through their Adopt-A-Meal program (if you like to cook and like to eat, check it out but am especially appreciative that we now have the chance to support them in another meaningful way. If we as a business and individuals hadn’t - pardon my cliché - followed our hearts and invested personally in causes that are important to us, I’m not sure many of our professional relationships would’ve blossomed.

I chose to join Fleur de Lis Communications because I really believe in what solid communication can do for business, but also because I knew my partner in crime was equally aligned in wanting to do something good in the world. This philosophy supports opportunities, like RMHCK, that intersect at the crossroads of our personal passions (philanthropic or otherwise) and our professional skills.

I’m happy to say that my terrifying two weeks as a PICU mom is far in the rearview, but the perspective in the aftermath has been lasting:

1) Experience and hardship can often lead you to unexpected places.

2) Follow your heart and see where it leads.

3) Park the pitch, embrace passion.

4) Sometimes being genuine is hard, but do it anyway.

5) Support Ronald McDonald Charities of Kentuckiana (and any other Ronald McDonald house for that matter!)

In closing, I’ll leave you with a fresh quote from my now four-year-old youngest daughter: “Mom, are you taking me to school like that? You look scary!”

…30 mins later at drop-off, “Mom, you’re so beautiful, you should be a ballerina on a stage.”

Genuine in real-time. Thank you for your candor, and for your fight, Nora Lucille.


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