We believe that families need more than medicine when they come to Le Bonheur. In their most stressful days, they need a place that can ease their burdens. You are essential to helping us provide a home away from home for these families ...
The Hughes Family
Cooper Overcame Rocky First Year (video)
Cooper Thomas Hughes will enroll in kindergarten this fall and his parents Russell and Terri will celebrate this major milestone that seemed so far away when their son was born. Cooper was born two months early – Jan. 18. He weighed 4 pounds and had many medical complications - bowel problems, only one kidney and clubfeet.
In less than 24 hours after birth, Cooper was airlifted by Pedi-Flite from Tupelo, Miss. to Le Bonheur Children’s MedicalCenter in Memphis for more specialized care. At three days, surgeon Trey Eubanks, MD, repaired Cooper’s intestines so his GI system could function adequately. Cooper spent his first 10 months at Le Bonheur.
“Because of his short bowel syndrome, and the fact that his small intestines were only one-third the length they would normally be, Cooper’s body had to learn how to absorb the nutrients from his food in order for him to grow,” Terri said. Cooper received all nutrition through an IV. One of the complications from his treatment was liver damage.
After many attempts to improve Cooper’s liver function, gastroenterologist Gene Whittington, MD, sought the advice of other pediatric specialists around the country. This new course of treatment and last hope using an immunosuppressant medicine and a steroid helped Cooper’s liver repair itself and regenerate. His skin color and liver enzymes also returned to normal. Since then, Cooper has had no other liver-related issues. Cooper continued to struggle with his feeding. He could not absorb formula by drinking from a bottle as a healthy child could. He was fed through an NG tube and IV for many months.
On October 28, 2004, when Cooper left LeBonheur for the first time since his birth, he went home with IV fluids and a central line. His parents were trained by Le Bonheur nurses to change his central line dressing in a sterile fashion and taught how to change his IV fluids. In time, Cooper gradually became able to tolerate taking his formula from a bottle, and his body began to better absorb the nutrients. When he was 13 months old, Cooper was able to be taken off the IV fluids. Since then, he has only had to receive IV fluids on a few occasions due to becoming dehydrated from a stomach virus.
For five months, Cooper wore full-length casts on his legs to help improve his clubfeet. After the casts were removed, he wore special shoes and a brace between the feet to help turn them in the proper position. In October 2006, orthopedic surgeon James Beaty, MD, corrected Cooper’s right foot. Cooper then wore a full-length cast on his right leg for 12 weeks. Today, Cooper is running and jumping around like other children his age.
Today, other than an allergy to milk and treenuts, Cooper is eating whatever he wants and tolerates it fairly well. On some days, because of his intestinal issues, he does not want to eat very much, and his body does not absorb the food as it should. But for the most part, Cooper is a normal five year-old boy when it comes to picky eating.
Cooper is still under the follow-up care of many Le Bonheur physicians who continue to monitor his on-going medical issues. He sees physicians from many specialties – surgery, gastroenterology, orthopedics, neurosurgery, urology and hematology. His primary pediatrician, Dr. Ed Ivancic of Tupelo, also monitors his progress.
Cooper’s parents, Russell and Terri, are very thankful that Le Bonheur is in close proximity to Tupelo, and that it has the specialists on staff to help treat Cooper’s conditions and assist him today to be a thriving and vibrant 7-year old little boy. And by the way, Cooper is a huge Ole Miss Fan.
Arkansas Auctioneer Inspired by Louisiana Family
Bo Rogers of PoBoy Auctions in Marion, Ark., discovered FedExFamilyHouse in the most unlikely of places: the Memphis Flea Market.Read More
A Louisiana family who traveled to Memphis and Le Bonheur Children’s for their child’s surgery stopped by his booth. They told him about their stay at FedExFamilyHouse and how their home-away-from-home had met their needs during a trying time.
Bo was so inspired by what the family told him about FedExFamilyHouse that he called the house to see how he could help.
“My son was born in 1987 with a heart condition and we drove 110 miles each way to visit him in the hospital every day because there was no place like FedExFamilyHouse for us to stay,” Bo said. “This family told me how they had borrowed gas money to drive their child to Memphis and that FedExFamilyHouse gave them a free place to stay and provided them with meals.”
After talking to FedExFamilyHouse Relationship Manager Sandra Lewis, Bo enlisted the support of his friend, Donnie Cloud, who also runs an auction house in Marian. The two men decided to sell special items during their weekly auctions and give all the proceeds to FedExFamilyHouse. In addition to raising money, they introduced FedExFamilyHouse to more than 200 of their auction attendees.
On April 1, Bo, Donnie and several of their “auction family” members — regulars who attend the weekly sales and helped by purchasing items — toured FedExFamilyHouse and presented a gift of $1,504. Bo and Donnie plan to continue these weekly sales for the FedExFamilyHouse and have pledged to make ongoing contributions.
“God has blessed me and my business tremendously,” said Bo. “It might have been our idea, but it’s the kind, loving support of the people we deal with that made it happen and who deserve the credit. Many of them don’t have a lot to begin with. They made this donation possible and will continue to make it happen.”
Sisters Grateful for FedExFamilyHouse
Selena and Savanna Bell know a lot about FedExFamilyHouse. The sisters have life-long illnesses and receive care at Le Bonheur. The pair come so often that even the hospital security guards know them by name. Because each has undergone multiple surgeries here, the girls and their family have spent numerous nights at FedExFamilyHouse.Read More
“After FedExFamilyHouse opened it really helped us financially and made it much easier and more convenient for our family to take care of the girls when they were at Le Bonheur,” said Paula Bell, their mother.
The Bells live in Greenfield, Tenn., a two-and-a-half hour drive from Memphis. Paula and her husband, Steven, found themselves spending a lot of money on hotel rooms and gas to drive back and forth prior to the opening of FedExFamilyHouse in 2011.
Selena, 13, has been a patient at Le Bonheur since 2005. She was diagnosed with Chiari malformation, a congenital abnormality that causes cerebrospinal fluid to build up in the brain. Selena experienced migraines as a result. She had spinal surgery at Le Bonheur to correct this problem in 2010. Since then, she has undergone five more surgeries.
Savanna, 4, has been a patient at Le Bonheur since she was diagnosed shortly after birth with craniosynostosis. The fibrous sutures in her skull prematurely fused into bone changing the growth pattern of the skull. Savanna has had three reconstructive surgeries at Le Bonheur and will have another one this month.
The Bell family says that FedExFamilyHouse has “gone above and beyond the call of duty” to care for their family. “We knew Le Bonheur was here but had no idea how welcoming and supportive FedExFamilyHouse was until we stayed there,” Paula said. “It means so much to be able to cook a meal at the house. It saves us time and is convenient. Having the pantry stocked with food to prepare meals is so helpful. Whenever we come to Le Bonheur, the girls look forward to receiving their goody bags at check in.”
Paula is grateful for simple amenities like the washers and dryers at FedExFamilyHouse. “Living far away, we don’t have to worry about bringing so many clothes with us because there’s a washer and dryer on every floor,” Paula said. “We can’t thank Le Bonheur and FedExFamily House enough for the support they’ve given us. I thank God every day that Le Bonheur and FedExFamilyHouse are here, not just for my family but for all families. It’s our home-away-from-home.”
Le Bonheur Corrects Patient’s Sight
Savanna Chappell was born with congenital cataracts. When she was only 6 months old, her mother, Katrina, was referred to Le Bonheur by a pediatrician near their home in Lavergne, Tenn. Katrina was willing to travel 230 miles to get the best possible care for her daughter.Read More
On her first trip to Le Bonheur, Savanna underwent a procedure to remove the lenses in her eyes. Katrina remembers how helpful the hospital staff was. “The compassion that everyone had and their overall general concern was amazing,” Katrina said. “I knew my daughter mattered to them.”
After the surgery, Savanna had to wear thick bifocals; her condition would require several additional procedures. When she turned six, Savanna had her fourth surgery at Le Bonheur. During this procedure, she received artificial lenses in her eyes which enabled her to see without bifocals.
During Savanna’s eye surgery, Katrina stayed at FedExFamilyHouse where she was able to prepare healthy meals, get a good night’s sleep and maintain as normal a routine as possible. “It was great to be well rested so I could be there for Savanna and take care of her,” said Katrina.
Today, Savanna, who turns 7 in August, only needs reading glasses. She no longer requires medication and returns to Le Bonheur for follow up care every six months. As an adult, she may no longer require even reading glasses.
“Savanna is a very outgoing six-year-old who loves people,” said Katrina. “She sees the world not only through her eyes but through her heart. She is giving, loving, friendly and wants to be a doctor when she grows up. If it weren’t for the people of Le Bonheur, my daughter would still be struggling with her vision and ability to see the world.”
FedExFamilyHouse Is Godsend for Parnell Family
At least once a month, 10-year-old Katarina Parnell and her mom Mindy make the 35-mile drive from Heth, Ark., to one of Le Bonheur’s outpatient clinics. Katarina has multiple medical issues including Cerebral Palsy, epilepsy and gastrointestinal problems. While 90 percent of Katarina’s care is provided through outpatient clinics, this past July the family was at Le Bonheur for 47 days.Read More
This summer, Katarina lost control of her stomach and intestines caused by her CP and as a result her autonomic nervous system shut down. The autonomic nervous system regulates involuntary body functions including digestion. While she underwent surgery to repair this condition, her family stayed at FedExFamilyHouse.
“I don’t leave her side very often when she is in the hospital,” said Mindy, “but it was such a relief to have a place to sleep besides her hospital room. We were able to cook meals and have a family setting to relax outside of the hospital. With Le Bonheur being so close to FedExFamilyHouse we could go back and forth to her room very quickly. It provided peace at a very chaotic time.”
Mindy said the small comforts of home like laundry and toiletry bags provided by FedExFamilyHouse meant a lot to her family. “Every time we come to Le Bonheur the possibility of an inpatient stay is always looming over us. Being a single mother, my funds are very limited and having a nice, safe place to stay without financial worry eases the burden tremendously. Having FedExFamilyHouse really takes the pressure off of families and I am so grateful to those whose donations have made this possible.”
After those long 47 days, Katarina and Mindy were glad to go home. Katarina is doing better with the help of medication and is back to playing with Veggie Tales, Strawberry Shortcake, My Little Pony and any Disney princess
Le Bonheur Offers New Beginning for Georgia Family
At just six-months-old, Zakaii Hunter was experiencing 50 to 60 spasms every day. His family finally found hope when he arrived at Le Bonheur and was diagnosed with infantile spasms, a form of seizure disorder.Read More
“I was at my wits end,” said his mother, Toyia. “The spasms came in clusters and I was desperate to get him some help.”
The Hunter’s live in Lithonia, Ga. They traveled to Memphis for Zakaii’s care after they learned about Le Bonheur’s Neuroscience Institute and Level IV Epilepsy Unit from family friends.
“It was a new beginning for our little boy,” said Toyia. “It meant everything to us to have our questions answered. We have not met a doctor here who did not sit down and explain to us everything that was going on with Zakaii.”
The family drives 14 hours round trip to give three-year-old Zakaii, who has Down syndrome, the ongoing care he needs. On their first visit to Le Bonheur, they stayed seven nights at FedExFamilyHouse. Now, the family returns every six months for Zakaii’s follow-up care and stays at FedExFamilyHouse.
“When we first arrived at Le Bonheur, we had no idea where we were going to stay,” said Toyia. “FedExFamilyHouse became our home away from home. Being able to rest comfortably and not worry about paying for a place to stay was the best feeling. Not all families are in a financial position to pay for a hotel, eat and care for their child. To have a place where this worry is alleviated makes it better for all families to concentrate on the treatment of their children. FedExFamilyHouse makes families feel comfortable in times that are very difficult.”
Since Dec. 1, 2011, Zakaii has been seizure free with the help of medication.
“It was a long, hard eight months driving seven hours from home to Le Bonheur,” said Toyia, “but it was well worth every moment. Zakaii is our little lion. He is brave and strong and has the courage of a lion. We count our blessings and thank Le Bonheur and FedExFamilyHouse every day.”
The Klenk Family
Janna Klenk is a very happy child. She likes Country Music Television (CMT), Wheel of Fortune and strumming her toy guitar. She can work an iPhone and other electronics. On the surface, she may sound like most 6 year olds, yet Janna has special needs.
Born prematurely at 28 weeks, Janna spent a month at her birthing hospital before arriving at Le Bonheur’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Here she spent 119 days.Read More
The future didn’t look very bright for Janna. Her parents, Mazie and Jeremy Klenk, began making funeral arrangements. Janna’s immune system was compromised and she was not a viable candidate for heart surgery. But Janna is a fighter.
“She’s my miracle baby!” said Mazie.
Mazie provides round the clock care for her daughter’s multiple health needs at home.
In July, Janna had heart surgery to implant three stents. During her hospitalization, Mazie stayed at FedExFamilyHouse.
“FedExFamilyHouse is utterly amazing,” said Mazie. “Words cannot describe what it means to have a place to stay when Janna is at Le Bonheur. When you’ve been through what we’ve been through, and to have had to sleep in a waiting room to be near your child in another hospital, a place like the FedExFamilyHouse means the world to families like ours.”
The family lives two hours from Memphis in Selmer, Tenn.
“We lived locally for many years, but now that we’ve moved so far away, we didn’t have anywhere else to stay during her surgery. FedExFamilyHouse offered us a safe place to sleep at no charge and a place where we could cook something to eat between our hospital visits. It meant the world to us to have that facility.”
Individuals and organizations donate meals and snacks for families at the FedExFamilyHouse. Mazie was so grateful during Janna’s hospitalization, she purchased sandwich makings to stock the community refrigerator at the house.
“It’s very traumatic for families to not know how they are going to eat or where the money will come from for a place to stay,” said Mazie. “Just to be able to have a place to make a sandwich is so nice.”
Family Drives 400 Miles to Le Bonheur for Son’s Care
When Jackson Dodson was born premature at 33 weeks, he spent nine days in the neonatal intensive care unit at his birthing hospital. Within weeks of going home with his parents, Heather and Rusty, Jackson developed complications that results in 49 days in the hospital, 10 of them on life support in a pediatric intensive care unit.Read More
While researching Jackson’s symptoms online, Heather contacted another mother whose son had the same symptoms as Jackson. This mother told Heather about Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital where her child had received exceptional care for his medical needs. Heather had never heard of Le Bonheur, yet she was willing to do anything to help her son.
Heather learned that Le Bonheur was ranked among the best children’s hospitals in neurology and neurosurgery.
Jackson was 15 months old when he arrived at Le Bonheur in October 2013. Dr. Masanori Igarashi, a neurologist with the Neuroscience Institute, diagnosed him with benign external hydrocephalus and Factor V Leiden thrombophilia, an inherited blood clotting disorder which had been present since Jackson’s birth.
“Everyone at Le Bonheur was so helpful and really cared that we got all the answers we were seeking to take care of Jackson’s medical needs,” said Heather. “We had seen numerous neurologists before coming to Le Bonheur but none of them could give us any answers. We knew Jackson had problems and all we wanted to know was what was going on with our son.”
On their first visit to Le Bonheur, the Dodson’s spent five days at the FedExFamilyHouse where they continue to stay when Jackson returns to Le Bonheur for his follow up care every two months. The family makes the 400-mile drive to also see Jackson’s hematologist and an orthopedic surgeon at Le Bonheur.
FedExFamilyHouse has been a lifesaver for the Dodsons. At their previous hospital, the family had to pay for a hotel room because a facility like FedExFamilyHouse wasn’t available to them.
“If FedExFamilyHouse were not here, we couldn’t afford to come to Le Bonheur and I wouldn’t have any answers,” said Heather. “There’s no way we could afford to continue to pay for a motel room.”
Le Bonheur Provides Answers for Epilepsy Patient
For 14 years, Wendy Bailey searched for answers for her daughter, Celeste. When she was 10 months old, Celeste began having seizures. By the time she turned 5, the seizures had become more frequent. Physicians near their home in Lake, Miss., were puzzled. They just couldn’t figure out what was wrong.Read More
Going many years without a diagnosis upset the entire family. When a friend recommended they contact Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital for a second opinion, they traveled to Memphis with the hope of finally getting a diagnosis.
“It was very frustrating not having any answers for all those years,” said Wendy.
“Le Bonheur gave us answers.”
Upon arrival at Le Bonheur in 2011, pediatric neurologist Amy McGregor, M.D. from Le Bonheur’s Neuroscience Institute, found the answer they were looking for: Celeste had epilepsy and PMG — polymicrogyria — a developmental malformation in the brain.
Now age 16, Celeste’s seizures are being controlled with medication and Le Bonheur physicians are working to get rid of her seizures altogether.
“There aren’t enough words to say what Le Bonheur means to me,” says Celeste.
"I feel so happy whenever I come to Le Bonheur. I thank them for making me feel important and not just an experiment. I have feelings, too, and we actually matter to them. Le Bonheur made my life full.""Le Bonheur provided a hope that we never had before — a hope for a normal life and a hope that Celeste would have a fulfilled life,” said Wendy.
“Before Le Bonheur, we were never sure. We had never before been treated with such compassion. As soon as we walked in the door, everyone was very caring. They listened to us. For families who seek answers, Le Bonheur is a life saver.”
This past August, doctors implanted a vagus nerve stimulator for Celeste. The pacemaker-like device generates electrical pulses to stimulate the vagus nerve, a cranial nerve that conducts impulses between the brain and the other parts of the brain and body.
Follow up for VNS requires that Celeste and her family travel the three-and-a-half-hour drive from her home to Le Bonheur every few weeks. During these appointments her family stays at FedExFamilyHouse, a home away from home for Le Bonheur patient families. After their sixth stay at FedExFamilyHouse they lost count of the nights they have spent here.
“She doesn’t always like what she has to go through at the hospital, but they make her very comfortable,” said Wendy. “Costs of traveling to Memphis add up and staying at the FedExFamilyHouse during Celeste’s treatment at Le Bonheur provides some relief to us. To have a safe place to stay is very comforting, especially when dealing with the medical issues Celeste has. By staying there I can concentrate solely on her. Grateful doesn’t being to express our feelings. FedExFamilyHouse is our home away from home.”
Celeste, who was selected Miss Congeniality in a beauty pageant at her school last spring, loves coming to Le Bonheur and staying at FedExFamilyHouse.
“If I could pick any place in the world to go, I would pick FedExFamilyHouse,” Celeste said. “I want to bring all my friends to see FedExFamilyHouse and share with them what a great place it is.”
Premature Birth, Complications Lead Parents to Le Bonheur
There was no indication that Eli Ward would be born prematurely. His mother, Stephanie, had a normal pregnancy. Yet Eli got in a hurry. When Stephanie gave birth at 23 weeks, Eli weighed only 1 pound 9 ounces. He was so tiny, his mother’s wedding ring slipped over his hand and up his arm For three weeks Eli stayed at his birthing hospital near their home in Bruce, Miss. When he developed an infection, Eli was sent by ambulance two hours away to
Le Bonheur Children’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for the specialized care he needed.
“When we arrived at Le Bonheur they were waiting for us,” Stephanie said. “Immediately he was surrounded by a room full of doctors. That’s what impressed me most.”
Eli was diagnosed with necrotizing enterocolitis (NCE). He immediately needed a bowel resection
“They were very upfront with us and told us it did not look good,” said Stephanie.
Dad Corey added, “The doctors don’t talk around you, they talk to you. They made a bad situation better because they listened to us.”
Physicians discovered a staph infection, MRSA, which had caused a vegetation on Eli’s mitral valve. With every heartbeat, the bacteria was spreading throughout his body. This was the worst possible scenario. Eli was too little for heart surgery and only one option remained: a non-traditional antibiotic with limited research on the side-affects in children.
“It was our last hope,” said Stephanie. “Our only other option was to take him off life support. It still feels like it wasn’t even real. I can remember hearing the diagnosis and feeling completely out of control. Le Bonheur never quit trying. No one ever gave up on Eli. They worked around the clock. When surgery wasn’t an option, they found other things to do for him.”
After 189 days in the NICU, Stephanie and Corey took Eli home for the first time. Eli, now 17 months, is a very happy baby and his parents are grateful for the expert care he received at Le Bonheur.
“I don’t know what we would have done without Le Bonheur or the FedExFamilyHouse,” said Stephanie. “No amount of money can replace what they gave to us. Being away from our family was difficult and to be so far away from our home for six months was stressful. At a time when our whole world was falling apart, the FedExFamilyHouse provided some normalcy to what was going on around us.”
The entire Ward family – aunts, uncles, grandparents and Stephanie and Corey – say that Le Bonheur and FedExFamilyHouse – a home away from home for Le Bonheur patient families – are now a part of their family. “Without either, our family wouldn’t be complete,” says Stephanie. “To have a place where your family can come and support you makes all the difference.”
Stephanie says she looked forward to the sack lunches delivered by Panera Bread every Saturday.
“We couldn’t have held up if there had been no place to get away to collect our thoughts or get a hot meal,” Stephanie continued. “The last thing on your mind is eating and to have food available meant the world to us. And our family was able to come and cook for us last Christmas. It was just like being at home.”
The Baker Family
“When someone’s sick, it doesn’t just affect that person,” said Melissa Baker. “It’s like a pebble thrown in a pond. When the ripples expand outward, illness affects many family members, friends and colleagues. Sometimes family members live far away, yet they want to come together and support the family member who is ill. That can be very expensive. Where do you stay? How do you get around?”Read More
Diagnosed with a heart condition at birth, Jennifer (36), continues to see physicians at Le Bonheur. Le Bonheur’s Heart Institute cares for adults with congenital heart defects. Our specialists understand the complexities of a repaired or reconstructed heart and may follow their patient for life.
For Melissa and her five daughters, FedExFamilyHouse was a godsend when Melissa’s daughter, Jennifer, who has Down syndrome and other medical conditions, required open heart surgery at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital in July 2013. Melissa and Jennifer drove from their home on Horseshoe Lake, Ark., about an hour away, for surgery at Le Bonheur in Memphis. All of Melissa’s daughters — one from Alabama and three from California — came to Memphis to support their sister and mother.
“Having a facility like FedExFamilyHouse allows family members to stay close to their loved one,” Melissa said. “It makes it not only financially possible, but it is also psychologically comforting, too. If a nurse calls me in the middle of the night, I can be at Jennifer’s bedside in about five minutes. Many people wouldn’t be able to leave their child in the hospital otherwise.”
Melissa knows how important FedExFamilyHouse is to Le Bonheur families. Last summer, 31-year-old Stephanie had an aneurism in the brain and Melissa flew to California to be with her daughter. There was no facility like FedExFamilyHouse for her to stay at during Stephanie’s hospitalization, so she rented a hotel room, an expense the family could ill afford.
Jennifer was born with a heart defect that was diagnosed at 3 weeks of age. Because it wasn’t causing her any problems, her physicians decided to let her go. At age 7, Jennifer had the first of four open-heart surgeries, which was performed at Le Bonheur. They were told then that when she reached her 20s additional heart repair surgery would be necessary.
At age 23, Jennifer had two more procedures, including one to replace a heart valve and insert a pacemaker. Now, 13 years later, Jennifer was back at Le Bonheur for her fourth heart surgery.
“Our family was really blessed to have a place to stay,” Melissa said. “A facility like FedExFamilyHouse makes you realize that the people who are responsible for this really value humans and the situation families go through when they have a sick child. It was a great experience under stressful circumstances. What a gift!”
Originally from Memphis, Melissa was a nurse with the Special Kids and Families program and understands how important it is for parents of sick children to remain strong to nurse their kids back to health.
“Sick children can’t get well as quickly if mom isn’t able to stay strong,” she says.
Family Travels to Le Bonheur for Infant’s Care
At six months of age, Carly Prosser was diagnosed with cortical blindness, a diagnosis that changed parents’ Amy and Terry Prossers life forever. Two months later, she began experiencing infantile spasmsRead More
Carly’s seizures led the Prossers from their home in South Carolina to Le Bonheur Children’s Neuroscience Institute where their daughter has been a patient ever since.
The hospital and FedExFamilyHouse have become special places for the family. After spending about 10 weeks at FedExFamilyHouse through numerous hospital stays, Amy says that when they arrive in Memphis and walk through the doors of FedExFamilyHouse, “it feels like coming home.”
“It always smells so good, just like fresh baked cookies,” Amy said. “And there’s always a fire in the fireplace. The staff greets us with a welcome bag filled with shampoo and treats, all the little things that make us feel extremely good about being here. Without FedExFamilyHouse, it would be a huge financial strain for us to come to Le Bonheur for Carly’s care.”
Amy has spent many nights at her daughter’s bed side, sleeping in the hospital room. But when she truly needs a good night’s sleep, she and her mother, Vicky Carter, will swap night duty so Amy can get some much-needed rest in their FedExFamilyHouse room.
“When Amy leaves Carly’s room late at night, I never have any worries,” says Vicky. “Security provides transportation across the street and the house is in a gated area which is so comforting. Just to have a little bit of normalcy with the kitchen, some snacks and breakfast cereal is such a comfort. It’s also a big help to have meals served by volunteer groups. Even when we aren’t at the house during meal time, they always send us a box lunch or dinner to our hospital room.”
Amy says family and friends in South Carolina probably tire of hearing about how great Le Bonheur and FedExFamilyHouse are. Still, the Prossers have gotten folks back home involved. Carly’s older sister, Ainsley, who is in the fifth grade at Gloverville Elementary school in Gloverville, S.C., is spear heading a school-wide food drive this fall to help stock the FedExFamilyHouse pantry.
The Prossers were so touched by volunteers who served a Thanksgiving dinner at FedExFamilyHouse last year that they have discussed returning to Memphis when Carly doesn’t require care just to prepare a meal for other families staying at the house.
“We’ve had to learn how to accept this outpouring of kindness,” says Vicky, “and we want to do something to give back. There are many ways to do that.”
“If you’re involved in an organization and are looking for something meaningful, there’s no better place to give than Le Bonheur and FedExFamilyHouse because so many benefit in return,” said Amy.
Vicky agrees. “It doesn’t have to be a big thing, as everything is so appreciated by everyone here.”
For the Prossers, FedExFamilyHouse is a huge blessing. “When you can share your story with others at the house you realize your story may be devastating but others also have their stories, too,” says Amy. “This helps keep things in perspective.”
“When other patients do well, it gives you hope when you hear it," adds Vicky.
If you would like to follow Carly’s story on Facebook, go to www.facebook.com/CarlyUnlimited.
The Hawthorne Family
Receiving tests at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital makes 14-year-old Caleb Hawthorne anxious. But seeing familiar faces at FedExFamilyHouse helps deflect his fears and puts his family at ease.
“We are here often, and they spoil us rotten,” said his mom, Kelly Britt. “Whenever we check in, they remember Caleb and ask me how we’re doing.”
The six-hour drive from their Gulf Coast home in Lucedale, Miss. is a taxing trip for both, yet upon arrival they are treated just like family, even down to special home-cooked meals.
“During one of our trips here, I couldn’t get Caleb to eat,” said Kelly, “and one of the ladies here tried to help me. Caleb asked her what she was having for dinner and she said chicken gizzards. He told her that he wanted what she was having, and she went home, cooked and brought him chicken gizzards for dinner. The staff does this all the time.”
Between his appointments at Le Bonheur, FedExFamilyHouse becomes Caleb’s home away from home – where he plays games, watches TV and has family meals.
“It’s taken a lot of work to get him where he’s at today,” Kelly said watching Caleb play in the game room. “After he was born, I was told Caleb would never walk, talk or communicate with me. He’s worked really hard, and I’ve worked really hard with him and for him. We’ve come far, but still have a long way to go.”
As an infant, Caleb would sit and pound his head into the floor. It took physicians nearly three years to diagnosis him with autism. As he grew older, dizzy spells and headaches began, soon followed by seizures. Two years ago, his hometown physician referred the family to Le Bonheur where Caleb is now treated for multiple medical issues including a heart anomaly, dysplasia, low body weight and fluctuating blood pressure.
At Le Bonheur, Caleb sees a neurologist, cardiologist, urologist and orthopedics specialist.
Kelly’s decision to drive to Memphis for Caleb’s care wasn’t made lightly. “I had heard of Le Bonheur,” she said, “and as a former nurse, I researched doctors and hospitals before coming here. What I learned made me comfortable and confident in the abilities of Le Bonheur’s health-care providers. It’s worth the drive and it doesn’t hurt that Le Bonheur is ranked among the best children’s hospitals in all the services he needed.”
Their first Le Bonheur visit required a one-week stay at FedExFamilyHouse. “I truly would not have made it without the FedExFamilyHouse,” Kelly said. “Having a place to stay while we’re here has taken a lot of the load off of me. When you’ve been at the hospital all day, you don’t feel like cooking. We’re so grateful to have meals prepared at dinner, and the lunch bags have helped when Caleb has a procedure done at lunch time.
“Being around other families that are also going through difficult times makes you feel like you’re not by yourself,” Kelly added. “At home, a lot of people don’t understand what it’s like to have a sick child in the hospital. Here, every mother knows what it’s like.”
The Blackburn Family
Baylee Blackburn had just returned from a mission trip to El Salvador. Neck pains and headaches had begun while she tended to the needs of others on a Starfish Orphanage Ministry trip and continued long after she had returned to her home in Paducah, Ky. It was a freak accident, however, that eventually revealed the reason for Baylee’s persistent pain.Read More
Her family physician wasn’t concerned, thinking it was just strained or inflamed muscles. If Baylee’s neck pains didn’t get better, he could always order some tests.
It was a freak accident, however, that eventually revealed the reason for Baylee’s persistent pain.
Baylee never saw the other car that swerved to avoid T-boing her vehicle. Even though her car was totaled, she walked away without a scratch. Only at the insistence of her mother, Pam, she was taken to the local emergency room to make sure everything checked out all right.
The CT scan that the ER doctor ordered following the accident showed there was more to the crash than Baylee or her family could ever have imagined. The tests revealed a mass and Baylee was immediately referred to Le Bonheur Children’s for treatment of a brain tumor.
“When they first told me I was scared,” said Baylee, “because my best friend died of a brain tumor in the seventh grade.”
“She looked at me and said, ‘Mom, God is involved in this so don’t worry,” Pam said. Her family firmly believes that if the accident hadn’t occurred, the mass on Baylee’s brain would have gone undetected.
When the Blackburn’s arrived at Le Bonheur, they checked into FedExFamilyHouse so the family could stay together and be near Baylee to support her.
“I believe God led us here,” Pam said. “It means so much for the family to be able to stay nearby the hospital, and we can walk back and forth to visit her. Staying at FedExFamilyHouse makes everything so much easier for us. You don’t think about things like washing your clothes when your child is in the hospital. But having a laundry area right there in the FedExFamilyHouse makes it quick and easy. If you’re hungry, there is food in the community refrigerator and you don’t have to go out to find a restaurant. I am just in awe of this place.”
In addition to her mom and her dad, Lee, her two sisters, Allee and Lauren, and Lauren’s 2-year-old son, Brody, stayed at FedExFamilyHouse to provide additional encouragement.
“I’ve never been to a hospital that provided for the entire family’s needs,” said Pam. “They even have activities for my 3-year-old grandson to attend so we don’t have to worry about him and can concentrate all of our energies on Baylee. This takes a load off all our shoulders.”
When Baylee’s treatment required a longer than anticipated stay in the hospital, the FedExFamilyHouse accommodated the family’s needs with additional nights.
For now, Baylee has postponed her plans to attend the University of Louisville and instead will begin classes near home at Western Kentucky Technical Community College this fall. Once treatment is behind her, she will transfer to the University of Louisville to continue her studies in chemistry and biology in her pursuit of a career in orthodontics.
The Smith Family
Courtesy of WHBQ Fox 13 Memphis
Playing and wrestling with his younger brother, Braydon Smith, 4, is "100-percent boy" according to his mother, Niccole Smith.
That's why it seemed exceptionally strange when Braydon began laying around and became quiet; his eyes started turning yellow. Niccole and her husband Antony took him to the doctor: Braydon had sudden liver failure.
"It was out of nowhere. You've got a perfectly healthy four-year-old and just out of nowhere his liver starts to fail," says Niccole,
Doctors at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital say they believe a virus killed Braydon's liver.
"By the time he got to us he had already started becoming confused and his liver failed to the point that he was in a coma, and he probably had about 24 hours to live," says Dr. James Eason, Medical Director of Methodist and Le Bonheur's Transplant Institute.
Miraculously, the morning after Braydon was admitted to Le Bonheur, he received a liver donation and immediately went to surgery for his transplant.
"Through the support of Le Bonheur and the University of Tennessee, we've assembled a great team that can take someone like Braydon on the brink of death, and with the help of God and everyone else restore his life," says Eason. "From the time before his transplant to the operation and our operating room team and the care he received after the transplant, everybody working together was able to save his life."
The transplant was not easy for Braydon to understand at first, according to his mother. Le Bonheur and the staff at FedExFamilyHouse helped turn Braydon's frown upside down.
"Braydon talked to me about two to three days after his surgery. He said ‘Mama, I don't like my new belly. I want my old belly back,'" says Niccole. "There was a security guard here at FedExFamilyHouse that Braydon showed, and he looked at Braydon and smiled and said, ‘I really like your smiley face. I want one just like it.'"
"It's my smiley face," says Braydon about the transplant scar on his stomach, "They're boo boos. That means this is a smiley face. They just changed my stomach to this one. It feels good."
It was a literal smile that helped the Smiths cope with the transplant struggles. They live five hours away from Le Bonheur and stayed at FedExFamilyHouse during Braydon's time at the hospital.
"We call this our home away from home. It is very comfortable when you come in and everybody's smiling at you and it just makes it a lot easier to cope with everything that's going on around you," says Niccole.
Click here to see the video on Fox 13's website.
The Thompson Family
“The FedExFamilyHouse is nicer than any hotel in Memphis,” said Caleb Thompson, whose daughter, Lyla, is a Le Bonheur patient. “It doesn’t take a back seat to even the nicest places we’ve stayed. Lyla was fascinated with the fireplace and the riding toys at the house.”
Caleb, a dentist from Oneida, Tenn., drives the 800-mile roundtrip from the Knoxville area to Memphis so his daughter can receive care at Le Bonheur. Four hospitals are located closer to their home, but he and his wife, Misty, prefer the care their daughter receives at Le Bonheur.
Lyla, now 18 months old, was born with bilateral club foot, a congenital deformity occurring in about one in every 1,000 births. Her feet looked like they had been rotated inward at the ankle.
At the time of Lyla’s birth, Caleb was in dental school at the University of Tennessee in Memphis. At two weeks old, Le Bonheur’s Dr. Derek Kelly (Campbell Clinic) and the Le Bonheur Clubfoot Team began casting procedures to correct Lyla’s feet. At nine months, Lyla was treated with the Ponsetti technique, a non-operative treatment of clubfeet. Today, she still wears a brace while she sleeps, but otherwise you’d never know this active and energetic little girl ever had any problem walking.
Every six months, the Thompsons drive to Memphis for Lyla’s post-surgery follow-up appointments. The family has been fortunate to stay in the FedExFamilyHouse for the last three visits.
“They were building the house while we lived in Memphis,” said Caleb. “Of course, living here, we never needed to stay there. The house atmosphere makes it easier on us, especially now, since we drive in one day, spend the night, and go home the next day following her appointment at Le Bonheur. It gives us and a lot of other families a place to feel at home while we’re away from home. It helps relieve some of the stress of traveling.
“There are many kids at Le Bonheur with a lot more severe medical problems than Lyla,” Caleb said. “Of course at the time she was born, we weren’t expecting this, and being 400 miles away from our family in Oneida was stressful. We were treated extremely well at Le Bonheur and all the physicians, therapists and technicians were great. If we had to do it again, we wouldn’t change a thing.”
The Barret Family
Will and Jacob Barret of Starkville, Miss. were reunited in the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit at Le Bonheur Children’s on April 1. The twin brothers had been apart for four weeks while Jacob received care at Le Bonheur for two heart defects.
Will and Jacob were born on Feb. 25 – eight weeks before they were due. They were transferred to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the North Mississippi Medical Center (NMMC) Women's Hospital in Tupelo, so doctors could monitor their growth. An echocardiogram at the hospital revealed that Jacob was suffering from transposition of the great arteries and coarctation of aorta – congenital heart defects that would require surgery to repair. He was transported to Le Bonheur where he underwent two surgeries and a cath lab procedure.
“Although transposition of the great arteries and coarctation are fairly common defects, the two combined are much less common. Jacob’s prematurity made surgery even riskier,” said pediatric cardiologist Mayte Figueroa, MD. “Jacob pulled through both surgeries with his amazing parents by his side. They have been through some difficult times but have always demonstrated remarkable faith and strength.”
Parents Misty and Heath Barret were thrilled when brother Will was finally ready to leave the NICU and could travel to Memphis to visit Jacob. “Will kept reaching over and touching Jacob,” said Heath of their reunion. You could just tell Jacob knew that his brother was here with him.”
Added Misty, “The staff at Le Bonheur has treated our baby like he was their own. The level of care we have received is phenomenal; this whole experience has been wonderful.”
Jacob should be well enough to go home in another month or so. Until then, the Barrets are staying at FedExFamilyHouse. The family looks forward to bringing both boys home to Starkville.
The Wright Family
FedExFamilyHouse did not exist when the Wright family first began coming to the Neuroscience Institute at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital nearly three years ago. Having to pay for a hotel over an extedned period of time only added additional stress to an already unthinkable situation.
By the time their son was admitted for his first brain surgery, however, FedExFamilyHouse had just opened its doors. The Wright family stayed at the House for a few weeks, at no cost to them.
"Words alone cannot adequately express how overwhelmed we all were upon entering FedExFamilyHouse,” said mom Jody Wright. “It began with a genuine and warm greeting making us feel very welcome and extended through everything and everyone we encountered.”
Jody said that when facing a child’s illness, having a home away from home provides much needed comfort.
“Our rooms were incredibly comfortable and something as simple as making a homemade meal helps you feel that you’re a part of your child’s healing process, too.
“We just can’t express our thanks enough to FedEx and Le Bonheur for creating a place to allow a family to be together during these very difficult times. You are all incredible and should be very proud of creating such a great environment.”
The Holmes Family
By the time the Holmes family heard they would be coming to Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital for their daughter Kayla’s treatment, they knew all about the excellent care they would receive. They had a family member who was treated at Le Bonheur for years.
What they didn’t know about was FedExFamilyHouse. They live in Ashland, Mississippi, located about two hours south of Memphis. Kayla (12), her mom Debra and aunt Dorothy stayed at the House for two days during Kayla’s recent outpatient treatments.
“People just go above and beyond at FedExFamilyHouse,” said Debra. “They are friendly, informative, helpful and just make you feel like family.”
The Holmes family appreciated volunteers providing dinner in the evenings and commented how wonderful it was not to have to worry about going out to get something to eat. They said it felt like a fancy restaurant because of a volunteer who played piano during dinner.
Kayla especially liked the teen room because of the fuseball table and all the “kid stuff.” She also said the "cookies are awesome!” The family was amazed that volunteers come bake cookies and fix grab-and-go bags for lunch.
They loved everything about the House and were so pleased that it is now available for other Le Bonheur families.
The Basinger Family
When their two-year-old son was transported more than three hours from home because of illness, the last thing on the Derek and Ashley Basinger's mind was where they were going to sleep.
"When my husband and I left to come to Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital for our son Caiden's treatment, we only brought a few things because of how fast we were rushed to Memphis," Ashley said.Read More
"We didn’t bring soap or any other toiletries."
After being awake for 48-straight hours, Ashley's mother took over watch for a little bit so she and Derek could get some rest.
"FedExFamilyHouse took us in and, for the first night in a week of worrying with very little sleep, we were finally able to rest.
"FedExFamilyHouse gave us everything we needed to freshen up. The staff provided us with a meal and gave us a beautiful place to relax, including a fantastic suite where we could literally melt to sleep in the comfortable beds.
"While staying at FedExFamilyHouse, it felt like someone cared about our well-being and sanity, even with all of the overwhelming bad news. FedExFamilyHouse gave us the support we needed so that we were able to make the best choices for my son’s health.
"Thank you to FedExFamilyHouse employees and to everyone at FedEx for your support. We appreciate all that you did for us in a time of need. God Bless you and your families.