By: Mary Helland

I was at work in front of my desk when I received the call. It was my daughter, and she had just left an ultrasound appointment. Instead of excitement, she shared that her baby had a condition called Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia (CDH). Although I’m a nurse, I didn’t realize the seriousness of the condition. But, with CDH, the intestines slip up through a hernia in the diaphragm and prevent the lungs of the child from developing normally.

A few days later, I joined my daughter and her husband at an appointment with a perinatologist who recommended terminating the pregnancy. On the way home from the visit, my daughter shared her concerns about the diagnosis and decided she wanted to give her child a chance at life. A few months later, Jolie Jean Scott came into the world and—as planned—was immediately intubated and closely monitored because of her undeveloped lungs.

During the hospitalization, my daughter and her husband were able to stay within walking distance from their ill child thanks to the Ronald McDonald House. It made visits easier, and it also gave Jolie the best chance at life. Still, even though she appeared perfect on the outside, she lived just two and a half weeks—never getting strong enough to have a potential life-saving surgery. Regardless of what we knew, the loss was devastating.

A few years later, after retiring, my grandchildren (Jolie’s siblings) and I took spring flowers to the Ronald McDonald House in memory of Jolie. Soon after, my grandson Blake and I decided to start volunteering there. And, when she was old enough, my granddaughter Brooklyn joined in.

When I started this tradition I thought it was a good way to honor Jolie by giving back and helping provide other children and their families a better chance at health. I thought it would be a great opportunity to teach my grandkids about giving. It has become all of that and more. It has built a bond with my grandchildren, and has taught them the importance of compassion, commitment and using good judgment in a “work setting”.

For me, it proved that—as humans—we all have the power to make good things from even the worst of situations. With that power, we can also help others through hardship. One way that Blake has done this, is by supplying daily jokes on a magnetic joke board at the House. I asked him to join me in sharing his volunteer story too, and it’s posted here.

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