For ten months after her son Jackson was born, Carrie Meghie spent every minute she could by his side at Chicago's Lurie Children's Hospital. However, she soon noticed why other parents weren't able to spend as much time in the NICU with their babies.
As CNN reports, Jackson was born with a chronic lung condition. Because they were never able to take their son home, Carrie and Terry, Jackson's parents, worked to make the NICU his home and nursery.
Carrie says that she would wake up every day and rush to the hospital to see her baby boy. Her husband, Terry, would visit on his lunch breaks and before and after work.
Spending so much time at the hospital, surrounded by other critical care infants, also let Carrie see that not every parent was able to visit as frequently. She told CNN:
“It was really surprising and kind of heartbreaking to see ... and it's for a variety of reasons. But it became clear to us that the cost of getting to the hospital and parking was one of those reasons.”
Lurie Children's Hospital is one of the best in the country, but its downtown location makes it an expensive place to visit. Carrie says that—even with a validated pass—her husband would spend $60 a day just to park and visit their son.
Carrie found that they spent more than $1,000 per month in parking fees alone. As she told CNN:
“When the first credit card statement came, I said, 'Do you realize we spent just shy of $2,000 to park?” We were shocked.'"
After Jackson passed away from pneumonia at nearly ten months of age, his parents wanted to honor his memory. Inspired by Jackson's spirit, they were convinced that the time they spent with their son helped make him so happy during his short life.
Carrie and her husband decided they wanted to help other families spend more time with their babies in NICU. She tells Independent Journal Review:
“I saw and experienced the joy of spending 10 months in the hospital with our son. I'm still amazed to this day at how happy he was and in our ability to make the hospital his home. My husband and I know without a doubt that the fact that we could be there with him each and every day allowed for this. We also witnessed firsthand how many babies weren't so fortunate and spent so much time alone. We decided our goal would be to give each baby the opportunity to have someone with them 24/7.”
Wanting to relieve parents of the burden of juggling the costs and demands of visiting their babies in NICU, she started the Jackson Chance Foundation, which provides complimentary parking and transportation to families with babies in the Lurie NICU. By alleviating those costs, Carrie estimates that they have been able to provide tens of thousands of NICU visits.
From the start, the response to the Foundation surpassed all of their expectations. Carrie tells Independent Journal Review:
“Our initial goal was $20k. After a feature in the Chicago Tribune in 2013, we received over $30k in donations in less than 2 weeks. Our mission has resonated and the foundation has expanded in a way we never imagined. People absolutely get it and have been motivated to donate.”
Happily, the reactions from parents have been, “overwhelmingly grateful and heartfelt.”
Carrie tells Independent Journal Review that her favorite response comes from the parents of Jacob, who spent 127 days in the NICU. As Jacob's parents testify on the Foundation's website:
“When we received a monthly parking pass from Jackson Chance Foundation, we didn't realize how much of a blessing it would be. Leaving Jacob physically hurt, but to know that we could come and go as we pleased without a price tag gave us one less worry and saved us more than $2500. We want to say thank you to Jackson Chance Foundation for knowing what we needed without even asking.”
Carrie says that their goal was to remove a worry from parents who already have so much to worry about.