Mattapoisett family to host Southcoast Health fundraiser

By Tanner Harding | Oct 12, 2016
Courtesy of: Jill Fearons Jack Fearons poses for a photo with his sisters Maggie and Molly.

Mattapoisett — There’s a story behind every fundraiser — the one behind the upcoming Southcoast Health Pediatrics one is personal for organizers and Mattapoisett residents Jill and George Fearons.

Their son Jack, 5, was diagnosed with chiari malformation, a condition in which brain tissue grows into the spinal canal. He was 2 when he had his first brain surgery, and according to his mother it went brilliantly.

“He came home within five days, he recovered great, and then it kind of grew back,” Jill Fearons said.

Jack had to go back in for what his family expected to be another routine surgery, but this time there were complications.

“It ended up being a 10 hour surgery,” Jill said. “He stayed in the ICU for two days and didn’t do well. He ended up going on life support for 10 days.”

It was a trying time for the Fearons, who at one point were told by doctors that Jack might not make it. While he was on life support, Jill said she made desperate calls to Southcoast, who arranged to bring in specialists.

“They helped me remarkably by bringing in other people who Boston Children’s Hospital maybe hadn’t thought of,” she said.

Jack came off life support on Mother’s Day.

After that, there were still more complications. He developed hydrocephalus and had to have a shunt, a valve to help drain fluid, put in. The shunt is permanent, and doctors told the Fearons that it would fail a couple times a year. When it does, there is an eight hour window before brain damage sets in.

Jack’s shunt failed the day he came home. The family brought him to St. Luke’s where they got him a helicopter to Boston.

“They took all the right measures and sent him where he needed to be,” Jill said. “The CEO of St. Luke’s sat in Jack’s room waiting with me, which to me was pretty amazing.”

Now, St. Luke’s has protocol set up for Jack so that they can either take care of him, or get him somewhere else that can.

“They’re on call for him,” Jill said. “It’s one of those things where I will forever be indebted to these physicians because I truly think they saved Jack’s life.”

The Fearons decided they wanted do something to show Southcoast Health their gratitude and to bring awareness to the new and improved pediatric care available.

“I have a son who is 17, and 17 years ago your pediatrician would tell you to never go to St. Luke’s,” Jill said. “So a lot of people have that mindset who maybe don’t have younger children or don’t have experience going to the new emergency department.”

The Fearons, who own their own business, know how lucky they were to be able to be with Jack while he was in the hospital in Boston, and want to help other families have that same luxury.

“It’s a huge financial burden, and not a lot of people could have done what George and I did. I know that,” she said. “I saw so many kids alone in their rooms…as a mom I don’t want that to happen. We saw children die from the flu because they couldn’t afford a flu shot. There was so much that we saw there that when we left I knew we had to make a difference.”

She also knows that making the trip to Boston isn’t easy for some families, and that it isn’t even always necessary with some of the care now available at St. Luke’s.

“Now, a lot of the specialists come down once a month,” she said. “So if you need to see a specialist, you have the ability to see them right here now.”

Ultimately, the family decided to hold a fundraiser to bring that awareness and to help the hospital provide help to other people going through similar situations.

“We wanted to do some financial funding so they could help families and bring more specialists down,” Jill said.

The fundraiser is at the Bay Club in Mattapoisett on Oct. 22 at 6 p.m. There is going to be dinner, cocktails and entertainment, with the Putnam Murdock Trio performing and Cuttyhunk Shellfish serving food.

There will also be a raffle and an auction at the fundraiser. The auction won’t be a traditional auction, however, as the Fearons wanted to give participants a more direct way to help.

Jill approached the head of the pediatric department at St. Luke’s and asked what supplies the department needed. So instead of bidding on items, people will volunteer to pay for supplies.

“That way people feel like they’re giving and they know what they’re giving to,” she said. “And everything, 100 percent of the proceeds go back to St. Luke’s pediatrics.”

So far, the Fearons have raised over $40,000 and have over 200 people planning on attending the fundraiser. They hope that the fundraiser becomes an annual event to continually help Southcoast Health.

“I just didn’t want to write a check to help them, I wanted to bring awareness to help them,” Jill said. “There are some phenomenal physicians at Southcoast Health.”

For more information on the fundraiser, contact Jill Fearons at afearons@comcast.net or George Fearons at gtfearons@me.com.

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