Photos by: Tara Hope Cofiell, Sherwood Kohn
In this cynical age, when scammers wait around every corner, it is difficult to accept any proposition at face value, but there is a universe of online organizations, known as “crowdfunding,” that are dedicated to the honest gathering and distribution of money for legitimate purposes.
This is the story of a Carroll County lawyer who tapped into the crowdfunding network to save the life of his newborn daughter.
Attorney Gary Desper was on vacation in Virginia Beach with his pregnant wife, Chantal, and his three children, Sylvia, 10, Garrison, 6, and Jocelyn, 2, when Chantal began hemorrhaging. It was 14 weeks before her due date. Desper rushed his wife to the local general hospital, where he learned to his alarm that the Virginia Beach General Hospital had no OB/GYN facilities; they had been moved to Princess Anne Hospital, nine miles away.
The baby’s birth was imminent – minutes away. Desper loaded everyone into his van and set out for Princess Anne, which had been alerted to his arrival.
After a brief delay caused by a thunderstorm, the Despers rushed Chantal into the OBGYN at Princess Anne, where their girl baby was born. It was still an emergency situation. The child weighed only 2 pounds, 4.7 ounces and had lost a lot of blood through a placental abruption, a condition in which the placenta is separated from the mother’s uterus.. She was in danger, not only of dying, but of suffering brain damage.
Desper needed to get his family back home, or to the fully equipped hospital closest to Carroll County – soonest. He priced medical transportation: a Lear jet with medical personnel. The least expensive would cost $13,000.
Desper reached out to Dave Burrows, who serves with him on the board of the South Carroll County Business Association (Burrows is its president).
Burrows had heard of GiveForward, a crowdfunding philanthropic organization that helped victims of the Boston Marathon bombing in April.
GiveForward responded immediately, drawing on a bank of prospective donors, including Desper’s friends, family and philanthropic sources, and within a short time had raised enough money to charter the jet and its medical personnel: two nurses and a paramedic.
The plane ferried the Despers to Howard County General Hospital, an acute-care affiliate of John Hopkins located in Columbia, where the newborn was rushed into the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
“It was touch and go,” said Desper.
The baby, by this time named Caroline, inspired by the Neil Diamond song, “Sweet Caroline,” (“Caroline” means “Strong,” said Desper), was beginning to be a “feeder and a grower,” and even appeared to recognize the song she was named after.
At this writing, Caroline was at home and thriving; by the end of October she had gained more than five pounds since she was born.
“She’s our miracle baby,” said Desper. “We wonder, in the world we live in, if there any good people left. I can tell you that there are.”
Needless to say, Desper looks back upon the whole experience with wonder and gratitude, not only because Caroline is thriving, but because there is such an organization as GiveForward, which appears to exist solely for the sake of doing good.
“Do miracles happen today?” said Desper. “I’m here to tell you they do.”