This is Isla Fordyce. She’s five months old. Here she is on Thanksgiving, sleeping with her oxygen, her IV pump, and a little plush turkey toy. Her grandmother, Pat, one of my readers and a member of my Facebook I-Team group, posted this photo online. Pat was grateful to be enjoying Thanksgiving with her baby granddaughter. It’s a near miracle that Isla made it to this moment.
Isla was born prematurely, and though she seemed to thrive, she caught a cold when she was just four months old that resulted in her being almost unable to breathe. Her worried parents took her to the doctor, who ordered some tests then sent them on to Children’s Hospital in Denver, where specialists delivered a devastating diagnosis — Pediatric Pulmonary Hypertension.
Pulmonary Hypertension, sometimes called Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension, is high blood pressure in the lungs. It is a chronic condition that can lead to heart failure. It is not like ordinary hypertension. It has nothing to do with weight or lack of exercise or smoking. The disease carries a high mortality rate. At the moment, there is no cure and no real approved treatments for pediatric patients.
Little Isla spent her fourth month of life in the the Intensive Care unit of Children’s Hospital here in Denver. For a part of that time — a good week or so — Isla was in an induced coma after she contracted pneumonia. Doctors wanted her tiny body to devote all its energies toward fighting the pneumonia.
Amazingly, treatments worked, and this tough little baby girl made it through the pneumonia, gaining enough strength to be sent home with her parents for Thanksgiving.
At this point, Isla has to remain on oxygen. She also has to remain on non-stop IV medication. Her grandparents and parents are hoping for a breakthrough that will enable their daughter to live a long, healthy, normal life. For that to happen, we need more treatments.
Ultimately, we need to find a cure.
Every year, I make a charitable donation on behalf of my readers to an special organization that does outstanding work on behalf of women and/or children. The past few years, those donations have gone to International Midwife Assistance, an organization that delivers prenatal and birthing services to women in Uganda, where pregnancy is too often a death sentence. But this year, because of Isla, I’m making a donation to the Pulmonary Hypertension Association’s Robyn Barst Pediatric Research and Mentoring Program.
A 501(c) 3 nonprofit, the Pulmonary Hypertension Association (PHA) is the one place families can turn for in-depth information and support when someone they love is diagnosed with this frightening disease. Though one can donate to the PHA’s general programs, I want to help fund the research that has to happen to help Isla experience a full life with things like riding a bicycle, chasing butterflies, and hiking.
The holiday season is typically a time when we struggle to pay for all of the good times and gifts we plan for our family and friends. A big holiday meal. Lots of fun baking. Wine for get-togethers with friends. Gifts for our family members. Travel to see kin far away. It can be a challenge to find the mental space, the time, or the money to make a donation.
But I am asking you please to do just that. I believe that you and I can raise a significant amount of money for PH research, not by giving our last dime, but by each of us giving just what we can afford.
I know for a fact that small donations add up. When I was editor-in-chief of a local paper, I wanted to do something about the fact that homeless people were freezing to death on the streets of Boulder, my hometown. The local homeless shelter and churches were overflowing, turning people away each night. The most they could do was to hand these people a blanket and some food and send them on their way.
I decided to come up with a fundraiser that was simple. I asked the people of my community to donate a $10 and an old blanket to the homeless shelter. It was easy. All they had to do was grab $10 in cash or write a check and drive to the shelter. Local churches got in on it, announcing my blanket drive during Sunday services.
At the end of December, the homeless shelter had a storage space the size of a two-car garage filled floor to ceiling with blankets and $6,000 specifically in ten-dollar bills. (They had no way to track exactly how many people donated money. Some people may have donated more. But they did have a stack of tens 600 high.)
Giving works when we all do our part. All that is required is the determination to act.
I’m asking for a donation of $10 from all my readers — more if you can afford it, less if you can’t. Ten dollars is less than the cost of two venti lattes at Starbucks. It’s $2.01 more than the cost of the average mass market paperback. But what it represents to Isla and her family is hope — a chance that an effective pediatric treatment or maybe even a cure will be found.
If every single person who follows my author page, this blog, Goodreads and my personal Facebook page were to donate just $5 — almost everyone has $5 to spare — we would raise more than $40,000 for pediatric research. But that means each of us has to join in. It’s not how much we donate that matters; what matters is that we each donate something. If each of us contributes a pebble, we can become a landslide. So take a deep breath, let the holiday stress go, and donate now.
Let’s give Isla’s parents, Matt and Ellie, and her grandmother, Pat, hope for Christmas.
PLEASE REMEMBER to make the donation In Honor of Isla Fordyce at the bottom of the online donation form where it says Tribute Information. Also, PLEASE check the box to mail a letter announcing your donation.
The address to enter is my PO Box:
Isla Fordyce c/o Pamela Clare
PO Box 1582
Longmont, CO 80502
If your business offers matching donations, please email me through the Guest Book on my website to work out the details. The PHA does have a letter you can present to your employer.
I will collect the letters at the end of the campaign — Jan. 8, 2014 — and announce the total raised for research before passing the letters on to Isla’s parents as gifts from strangers who are keeping their daughter in their thoughts and prayers. Can you imagine the look on their faces when they see the letters or how it will feel to them to know so many people they’ve never met care what happens to their little girl?
To those of you who take the time to donate, I offer my sincere thanks. I hope your kindness comes back to enrich your life in the New Year.
Photos courtesy of Pat Fordyce