As Gavin's sixth birthday was approaching this past September, Ed and I struggled with how we should "celebrate." One of the ways we decided to mark the day was to "re-do" the children's waiting room in the Paoli Hospital Emergency Room. The same emergency room we took him to the day he had his febrile seizure that ultimately led to his death.
After getting approval from the hospital... and deciding what I wanted to purchase... I opened it up to all of you in the event you wanted to participate. And boy, did you. I started a "Go Fund Me" page with an end goal of $1,000. Ed and I donated $600 - and a thousand dollars more could purchase everything I had chosen. Very quickly, the goal was surpassed. I wasn't sure what to do - so, once again, I opened it up to all of you. The overwhelming majority decided that they wanted me to keep it open so they could continue to donate. You suggested that I get better toys - bigger toys - more toys - you just wanted to keep giving. I set a date to close the project and, in the end, I had so much excess money.
I purchased all of the toys and furniture for $2, 320.96.
The amount raised was $7, 444.00. I didn't realize that Go Fund Me took such a large fee so I was bummed when $6,017.26 was the check I received from them after they took their "cut." That means that $3,696.30 is what is left over. You were extremely generous... and we were so grateful.
I was so excited about this project for several reasons. For one, it was truly inspired by Brian - who was left in that waiting room on one of the worst days of his life. I involved him heavily in the whole process - choosing the toys, helping me assemble them when they arrived at our house and I really pumped him up for the big day when we would help put the toys in the room. Two - Gavin was born in this hospital. He spent a month in their NICU. And his heart stopped beating in their emergency room on April 10th, 2012. Doing something so fun and joyful in his honor was a big step towards healing my heart. I had to make something positive out of this extremely negative situation. Focusing on every aspect of this project - from choosing the toys and knowing just where they would go in the room... to having all the toys delivered to me so I could take the burden of inspecting and assembling them off of the hospital... to looking forward to the big day when we would be there as a family to help place everything and see all of our hard work after the end of this long, emotional journey.
Unfortunately, nothing went the way I had hoped... or planned. Some of the things I told you were going to happen - didn't. Some of the ways that I told you that things were going to be done - weren't. And the entire process took way longer than I ever expected. There was one toy that was backordered - and I didn't receive it until November. I had wanted the room completed by Gavin's birthday in September. While I waited and waited - I didn't know how to update you anymore. Every update would have been "still waiting!"
The good news? It's done. (kind of) The mission of providing the hospital with a waiting room filled with new, bright, fun toys has been accomplished. My personal mission of having "ocean themed" toys - including a sand/magnet table that has sand from under "Gavin's Pier" in Ocean City, New Jersey has been accomplished. Here are some before and after shots of the waiting room...
At the end of the day - it's done. And part of me wants to say, "All's well that ends well!"
But I can't.
I am not looking to publicly shame anyone, so I'm not going to get into the details of what I experienced on the journey to complete Gavin's Birthday Project or name any names. It has a lot to do with how I was treated and talked to. But I will tell you one small part.
As I said, I had all the toys and furniture delivered to our home. The large boxes, furniture and assembled toys were in our living and dining room. As we waited and waited for the backordered piece that would complete the sand/magnet table, I was getting closer to my due date. I was anxious to get everything out of our house to make room for baby things. My first idea was to deliver everything BUT the sand/magnet table - basically complete the room as a family and then bring the table over when it arrived. But I was told it was a busy time for facilities and they needed more notice. So I was told that we could drop everything off (as a favor to us so we could get it out of our house) - but we would need to give an exact day and time we were showing up. We were told to drive around the back of the hospital to the loading dock and facilities would be there to unload our car. They would store everything until the day that we were both ready to do the install. We chose the next day at three for our "show up" time. I taped sheets of paper to every single item and wrote in sharpie pen what it was for... and to please contact the Leong family before installing in the waiting room. And I added two phone numbers to reach us.
We showed up. We had our two cars packed with all of the furniture, toys and boxes.
We showed up. But there was no one there.
We waited and waited. We saw someone walking out that looked like they were with facilities... and they had no idea who we were or what we were talking about. And the woman that I'd been working with all along - that told us to give an exact day and time - was gone for Thanksgiving. I was so upset. They finally decided that they would just unload everything and place it in her office.
I ended up in Labor and Delivery that night. My blood pressure was very high (shocker) - and my OB kept me over Thanksgiving. And we all know that just days later I was back in Labor and Delivery - this time to actually deliver Hope. November 30th.
After Hope was born, I didn't pursue the issue right away... and I figured that if they were ready to install, they would call. Of course they would call - it was the plan all along for us to be there!
I was wrong.
When I got an email last week from someone who generously donated to this project - pointing out that she donated in August for Gavin's birthday in September and it was now January and nothing has happened - and was threatening to call her credit card company to report fraud... I freaked. I can't say I could blame her - she wanted to know that her money went to what I promised it would go to. All of you trusted me with your money - and I took that very seriously. I knew I needed to give you an update - and show this project completed - so I called my contact at the hospital to tell her that we were ready to come over for the install.
When I got the call back - she told me that they went ahead and put everything in the room before Christmas.
I was heartbroken.
I was so involved in every aspect of this project - as was Brian. The whole process was a build up to the grand finale of the install. The idea that they did it all without us - despite my clear communication all along, including notes on every single item - in sharpie pen - crushed me. The fact that people have been in and out of that room and we hadn't even seen it - devastated me.
Things were placed wrong (like the big fish mirrors that are supposed to be low so KIDS can see themselves in them) which totally bums me out. And there's a furniture set that they still haven't put in the room.
I feel humiliated. I feel deflated. I feel a bit angry at how I was treated. I feel embarrassed that promises I made to you were then broken by them. I will never do a project like this again. What was meant to help heal my heart made me feel worse. I decided to skip the "promotional tour" and have no desire to be in photos for the hospital newsletter or website or anything. It was never about that anyway. We chose, instead, to contact the doctor that took care of Gavin on that awful day in April. Dr. Stuart Brilliant. He was responsible for - basically - saving Gavin's life. He stabilized him so he could get on the helicopter to DuPont - which meant that we had more time with him before we had to say goodbye four days later. And the nurse manager who helped us, Bernadette Weiss, who was a calming presence to me. We were happy to see them this afternoon... and introduce them to Hope.
I was able to spin the story to Brian so he wasn't disappointed about missing the install day. But having to do that at all was not fun - it added more stress to my life. The two of us had been on this journey together and I really built him up for that big day. But today he was fine - and enjoyed playing with the toys. He's happy that other children who are "left waiting" will have fun things to play with.
After my experience over the last several months, I don't feel comfortable leaving the excess money we have with the hospital. I'm not entirely pleased with some of the decisions they've made throughout this process - so why should I assume our money would be used in the way we asked?
So - I'm coming back to you. You were the ones who donated so generously and you deserve to be a part of this decision. I want you to decide where the excess money should go - we have three places that are a big part of our lives to choose from. If you can vote in the poll (you can only vote once) - I will let the majority rule. I will close this poll on Monday, January 13 at 3pm.
Here are the choices. You can click any of them to learn more about why they are important to us - and then make your choice in the poll at the bottom of this journal entry:
Thank you for participating in Gavin's Birthday Project. I hate to say this - and I hate feeling this way - but I'm truly just happy that it's over. The Grand Finale was not so grand at all. (p.s. - It was brought to my attention today that someone called the hospital to speak to the person in charge "on my behalf." Please - I beg of you - do NOT do this. No one needs to speak to anyone on my behalf. Doing this behind my back feels very violating - and is really overstepping a boundary. I know you want to "fix" this - but please let me handle it. Thank you!!!)