Moms of children who suffered brain injuries united to provide assistance to parents of young trauma patients hospitalized at Shands Jacksonville and Shands at the University of Florida.
By RON WOOD
JACKSONVILLE – On a quick walk through Shands Jacksonville’s pediatric intensive care unit, Tracy East almost shudders when she spies a child in bed hooked up to tubes and wires.
”That was Jason’s room,” she explains, recalling the terrifying days and nights her son spent in that hospital room, clinging to life after being injured in a car crash.
Carolyn Leonard and Bobbi Layton had similar experiences, never leaving Shands for weeks while their daughters hung between life and death after being run over by cars.
The women shivered through sleepless nights in the waiting room. They washed their hair in a bathroom sink. They didn’t have a toothbrush or deodorant, nor did they have a pen and paper to write questions for doctors. They had no place to organize a steady stream of business cards.
The three decided other parents shouldn’t have to endure the discomfort they did.
The mothers, nicknamed ”Trauma Mommas” by East, started putting items in canvas bags and leaving them at Shands Jacksonville and Shands at the University of Florida in Gainesville to be given to families of young trauma patients. There’s a soft fuzzy blanket and pillow, prepaid phone cards, a toothbrush and toothpaste, deodorant, a notebook, a business card holder and some aspirin.
”When you’ve been crying very hard for three days, you get a headache and you need aspirin,” East said.
The moms, officially ”Mothers Against Brain Injuries Inc.,” raise money for their nonprofit organization through parties and a golf tournament. Each bag costs about $30 to $40. To date, the women have donated 89 to Shands in Jacksonville and 10 to Shands in Gainesville.
In a check of major trauma hospitals in Florida, none had a similar program.
”We have found that no other group is doing what we are doing and that is to provide immediate support, necessities, information and hope to the family of a child suffering a traumatic injury at any hospital,” East said.
Steve and Jeneva Locklear, whose 9-year-old daughter Emily was severely injured in a car crash on March 4, received one of the group’s bags at Shands Jacksonville.
The Locklears have developed a bond with Leonard and her daughter, Kinsey, who spent weeks at Shands after being run over by a pickup truck.
”I thought it was wonderful. I was touched by it,” Jeneva Locklear said.
On a recent Friday night, Carolyn Leonard sat with Steve and Jeneva while Emily was in surgery.
”She has been very supportive. That gave me strength and hope,” Jeneva Locklear said.