In one of my favorite new series ‘This is Us’, a mother and father are pregnant for triplets. During delivery, not only does she have to labor with the Doctor on Call, Dr. K, but she went into distress. He delivers those babies and they lose one. While telling the father he goes into detail about his life and loss of a child, and tells him-
“I’d like to think that maybe one day you’ll be an old man like me, talking a younger man’s ear off explaining to him how you took the sourest lemon that life has to offer and turned into something resembling lemonade.”
I love this saying, because it is so true. I always hear when life hands you lemons, make lemonade. Dr. K said it way more true… when you are stuck with the sourest lemon do the best with what you have and make it into a sort of lemonade. We all know that life is a hot mess, it is one hot mess layered with awesome sauce, stirred in with terrible, bad days… right on the same plate as stinkin’ good. What you do with it all says so much about who you are and what you are built of (and building). So if you can take your sour and not good lemons and make something that resembles lemonade or even lemon water you are building it better…
Yesterday I got to see another momma in this club, Madden’s mom, Jenna. She spoke and shared her story… her lessons, love and pain, broken and memorable. Her presentation was one of those moments where we sit and ride the rollercoaster of pain and joy. Hearing about Madden’s smile and flipflops… right next to rocking him until he was gone from this earth.
As I heard her speak I knew I needed to share her words with you all. You will all meet Madden, feel her pain and know her mission. It is an important one. Jenna advocated fro CPR training and Safe Sleep education.
“Each person in this room has an opportunity to be a somebody.
Something more than what you see when you look in the mirror. Not
just a mom, or a wife. Not just a husband or someone’s employee. We
all have an opportunity to go above and beyond daily. And do these
things not just because we have children, or we are married or we are
employed by someone other than ourselves. But because what we do
will make an impact, what will do will make a difference. So I challenge
you to think about what you are doing in your life that makes an
impact. Who are you when the world isn’t looking?
Two years ago I was a mom- a tired mom of 3 that
worked a 40-hour position as a Marketing Manager for Renzi
Foodservice. I was a stressed mom trying to make it all work as my
husband worked out of town for a construction company. I was a wife
to a husband who I only saw at night for a few hours after work and on
the weekend. I was someone else’s employee. I was a friend and I was
a daughter. I was everything for everyone else. But, it seemed like I
was doing what I needed to do for my family. I had 3 beautiful, healthy
children, Olivia age 10, Brady age 6 and Madden who was about to turn
8 months old. We lived in a beautiful home in Adams. We were blessed
with an amazing group of friends and family. I worked at a job that I
absolutely loved! If any of you know the Renzi family, you can imagine
how much I loved where I worked. They are amazing! I was all these
things wrapped up into one. And I was doing it. I was supporting my
family and loving the life that I had. But, now I’m wondering, looking
back, was I appreciating all of it?
On August 6th, 2014, everything I was, worked so hard to become, was
about to change without any kind of warning. I can remember the
morning so clearly, almost like it was this morning. It went a little like
this-I woke up, got myself showered and ready for work. I woke up
Olivia and Brady, got them ready for the day. And then I woke up my
son Madden. I gave Madden a bottle and rocked him. He loved to be
rocked. It was “our time”. It was the time I enjoyed most with my son.
It was peaceful and quiet and just us. I can remember he would always
stare at me and I would talk to him and smile at him and just be his
mom. We just soaked in love, that only a mother and her baby can
understand and enjoy. I got him dressed in his little summer onesie and
plaid shorts and these adorable little blue sandals.
And we were off. We drove about 20 minutes to Watertown every day
to their daycare provider. A nice woman who had come highly
recommended to me by a family friend. She had just started watching
my children at the end of June, but the kids seemed to enjoy her. I can
remember pulling in the driveway that morning and I watched as she
opened the door to welcome my children into her home. For anyone
who has children that go to daycare, you know that finding someone to
love your children when you cant is so important. It’s essential. I felt
good in my decision. I handed my baby over to her, kissed my older
children, kissed my baby and waved goodbye. Madden waved back.
I drove 10 minutes to my work. I walked into an atmosphere full of
smiles and laughter and co-workers I couldn’t imagine my life
without. During my lunch hour, around 11:45, I called my daughter. I
asked her what was going on, how her day was going and what Brady
and Madden were doing. She said and I quote, “Everything is going
good. Brady is outside playing; I’m helping the sitter cook lunch and
Madden is taking a nap.” I was happy. Seemed like everything was
going perfect. So, I said, “Ok honey, I love you and will see you
later.” And I went back to work. Around 1:37 I saw my phone light up
and felt the vibration. I look down and it was the sitter calling. I
answered, thinking that it couldn’t be anything but maybe something
with my older son Brady, he is sweet but can be a typical, crazy boy.
Instead, I heard my fate. “Jenna, you have to get here right now,
Madden isn’t breathing!” I froze and then I screamed, “Madden isn’t
breathing?” I don’t know what she said after that because I threw the
phone in my purse. I picked up my purse and ran. As I went running
down this long hallway, I heard my HR Manager say, “Just go.” So, I
ran, I ran to my car. I started to drive. I then dialed the phone and
called my husband. And as I told him that Madden wasn’t breathing, he
just screamed and yelled, “My son, my son!!” What was happening?! I
drove so fast…everything was happening so fast. That 10-minute drive
was beginning to seem like hours, days even. I was half way to her
house and she called and said to turn around and go to Samaritan, that
Madden was being transported by ambulance.
I ran down the halls of Samaritan and entered their Emergency room. I
didn’t know where to go. Confusion, fear had taken over. I was
overwhelmed with these emotions. I had no idea what was
happening. I was soon directed to this room. This little room with no
windows, with no one else in the room. It was like a coffin for my hope.
Shortly after, the respiratory therapist entered the room. I knew her. I
knew this woman well. She was a distant family member. She hugged
me and said, “We have a heartbeat Jenna.” She said they were running
some tests and I could see him soon. I could see Madden very
soon!! Then my mom walked in, then a Sherriff walked in, then my
mother in law walked in. We all still didn’t know the details of what
was happening or what even happened. And then I heard those words
again, “My son, my son.” My husband was running down the hall to
me. I hugged him and said, “It’s all going to be ok Ryan, it’s all going to
be fine. Madden is going to be fine.” All he kept saying was, “My son,
my son.” And all I kept saying was, “It’s all going to be ok.” Because,
that’s what strong women do. They reassure, they believe in the best
and they stand up when their family can’t. Now more than ever I
needed to be that mom and I needed to be that wife.
I am not sure that anything could have prepared me emotionally for the
next few hours of my life. I can remember it all so clearly, so
vividly. When we were finally able to see our Madden James, my
husband and I were brought to a room where he laid. There he was,
hooked up to every machine, ivs and tubes coming out everywhere. He
looked so awkwardly peaceful. I can then remember being told that a
team from Syracuse Upstate Galisano Hospital was on their way to
transport us there, where they would care for and continue to treat
Madden. I felt reassured, like this is great, Madden is going to be
ok. When the team from Syracuse arrived, the pediatric nurse called
my husband and I into that room, that small room with no windows-
into our coffin for hope, and delivered the worst news ever. She said,
“Has anyone told you what is going on with Madden.” I said “No, no
one has told us anything.” And then she said, “Madden was without
oxygen for some time and because of this, if he makes it he will be
completely brain dead.” I said “If?” She said, yes, we do not believe
that Madden will survive but we will do everything we can. My
husband screamed “No, my son!!” I can remember just burying my
head in her chest and crying, losing all strength that I thought I had.
Arriving to Syracuse was supposed to be reassuring as I had thought
that they could help us. We soon would learn that Madden was
physically with us, but mentally and emotionally he had been without
oxygen for so long, that even if he did survive, we wouldn’t be loving on
the same little baby that we had loved on the last 8 months. That
beautiful baby boy I had left that morning.
So, as the machines soon would show, Madden’s life support was no
longer working. His breathing machine wasn’t powering over his failing
heartbeat. I then did what any mother would do. I scooped my son
into my arms, sat back in the wooden rocking chair, held him as they
removed his tubes, and rocked my son to sleep for the last time. As I
was rocking him, the entire last 8 months ran through my head; all the
smiles, all the laughter, all the joy he brought. The time I got to be his
mom and the complete emptiness I was already beginning to feel and
continue to feel every second of every day, the complete whirlwind I
stand here facing today. Madden passed away just a few minutes later.
My sweet, crazy baby is now the angel I carry with me today. The
reason for me standing here today.
We would later learn, through months of investigations, that our 10
year-old daughter Olivia was the one that called 911 and assisted with
CPR. She was instructed by the daycare provider to call 911 when the
daycare provider noticed Madden not responsive and did so with the
courage of a super hero. Her ten years grew by decades in seconds as
she did what some adults could never even think of doing. I was later
able to hear the 911 call, and I can tell you that as a mother, she left me
with an unspeakable pride and devastation in her actions. She is
amazing. And then, then we would learn and come to choke back the
pill of what happened to our baby. Madden was placed to sleep on the
day care providers bed, surrounded by pillows and blankets with a
bottle for his nap. He began to choke on his bottle and tried to escape
from this, and when he rolled over he became unable to get enough
oxygen due to the environment he was in. Because of this he
suffocated in his sleep. What happened to the daycare
provider? Nothing. Because there are no laws in this state that make it
illegal for a baby to be placed to sleep in an unsafe sleep environment.
As I stand here today, I don’t know as that I will ever be able to
accurately describe the next few weeks, even months of my
life. Because I still don’t believe that all of this is even real. I never
thought, still never would think, that a woman, a woman like me, who
loved her baby so much, could have that love taken away. But then
again, things happen in life and we are given a choice. We are given an
opportunity to make a difference, to take that oh so sour lemon and
turn it into something bitter sweet.
One of the first responders that day taking care of Madden, was a man
that I have known for years. A man that has always been one of my
best friends. A man who I can stand here and say left his heart with my
son that day. Him, and the other 4 responders are men that I owe my
deepest gratitude to. He and I spoke quiet frequently after this day,
about Madden mostly. He helped me understand, he helped me find
peace and he guided me. He guided me to what I am today. As we
requested that all the donations at the funeral be sent to the Town of
Watertown Fire Department, these group of fine men held money that
they didn’t want. One afternoon, this man that I speak of, handed me a
check, one check of all the donation money that they had received. He
said, Jenna, do something for Madden with this. I believe you will do
something wonderful in his name.
After establishing a foundation with the Northern New York Community
Foundation in November of 2014 under the name Heartbeats for
Madden, I am proud to say that I am the President of this two-year-old
Foundation, a foundation that has grown and thrived in a community
that I had no idea even existed. I started this foundation with $600.00
and today I am honored to report that we have raised all our own
money, no state or federal grants, received generous donations from
donors throughout this outstanding community and a substantial
amount of money to put forth towards our mission. I am supported by
3 powerful women who sit on the Heartbeats committee. These
women, who I not only call my family, take my crazy thoughts and help
turn them into these beautiful events. Events like a 5k Color Blast run
where we throw 200+ pounds of color on runners and walkers
throughout the hills of Thompson park. And events like our Dodge for a
Cause event held annually at the YMCA where we let local Fire
Departments and Police Officers and the friends and family pelt each
other with dodge balls all to raise money to ensure that what happened
to Madden doesn’t happen to any other baby. We raise funds to offer
free CPR Certification to individuals in the Jefferson, Lewis & St.
Lawrence Counties. We raise funds to bring awareness to safe sleep,
and educate anyone who needs guidance in this area. And we raise
funds so that one day we can go before State, Local & Federal
Governments and get a law passed, maybe even call it Madden’s Law,
that ensures that: no baby be placed to sleep in an unsafe sleep
environment and that proper measures be put in to place to ensure this
happens and prosecute those who do not up hold these standards.
Two years ago, I took playing on the floor with my children for
granted. I let trips to the playground take second place to making sure
there was a clean house. I let the stress of everyday, mundane tasks
overwhelm me. I complained about being tired. I complained about
having to change diapers…. I complained about doing things that I
would give anything to do now.
There is this saying, “While we try to teach our children all about life,
our children teach us what life is all about.” Madden taught me more
in 8 months then I have learned my entire life. He taught me the value
of life. He taught me the cost of not appreciating that life. And he
taught me that I am strong. Stronger than I ever believed. People
would always ask me, and continue to ask me, how I manage to live
every day, live knowing what happened to my son. I don’t have an
answer for that. I just know that after I left Upstate Galisano Hosptial
that Wednesday night, I went home to two other children. Two
children who needed their mom now more than ever. There were
these 4 little eyes looking at me for direction, for guidance. Who would
I be if I didn’t continue to give this to them? Who would I be if I didn’t
give them more guidance and direction and love then I had ever shown
them before. I never knew I didn’t like who I was when no one was
looking until I looked at myself a different way.
Heartbeats for Madden has given me an opportunity to speak for
Madden. I believe that I was given the chance to live out the life that
Madden was denied. I believe that he is guiding me and I’m just
following his footprints, footprints of those adorable blue sandals.
Madden didn’t get to live out all his strong heartbeats, but I can make
sure that no baby ever gets denied that right. With the help of this
connected and beautiful community, I believe that together we can
make a difference. We can start by making it mandatory for all new
moms and care givers to be safe sleep and CPR Certified, because
Today 75% of the death rate of infants in Jefferson, Lewis & St.
Lawrence county can be attributed to safe sleep and I want that
number down. I want that number to be 0. I want every baby to sleep
safe and I will be successful in doing so.
So, what are we doing today? What is Heartbeats for Madden up to
and how you can help?
I would like to thank you for this platform, this opportunity to share my
story. I hope I have impacted you all to support our mission and take a
second to think of what impact you are making in this world, who you
are when the world isn’t looking?
Head over to Heartbeats for Madden <3… be changed.