Lauren’s Hope Foundation
By Frederick Jerant
Long ago, alchemists struggled mightily to crack the secret of turning lead into gold. Of course, they never succeeded.
You might consider Ann Flood to be a modern-day alchemist – but a successful one. She has taken a gut-wrenching loss – the untimely death of Lauren, her four-year-old daughter – and created from it Lauren’s Hope Foundation, Inc.
Lauren suffered a traumatic brain injury at her birth in 2003, which led to cerebral palsy and a seizure disorder. “Everything that kids do naturally, Lauren had to be taught,” Flood recalls. “She needed therapy for feeding – because she didn’t have the oral skills to take a bottle – for fine motor skills, even tracking things with her eyes.”
Lauren also screamed virtually around the clock. “At one point, we determined that she was sleeping only 81 minutes a day,” Flood says. A neurologist finally found the cause was the pain of acid reflux disease, which was corrected by surgery.
Lauren was a different child after that; she even entered the Colonial Northampton Intermediate Unit 20’s preschool for multiple disability support classes. Ann also praises the hippotherapy – the use of horses in treatment programs – at Equi-librium, Inc. The little girl improved her balance, trunk control and core strength through
Facing such severe challenges, another family might have become withdrawn…but not the Floods. Ann and her husband, Dan, treated Lauren the same as their other two children. “We wanted to expose her to everything, even though we had to do it in different ways,” she says.
Lauren learned to toast marshmallows (with some help) and to enjoy appropriate amusement park rides. And when the family went out for wings at Detzi’s Tavern, Wind Gap, Lauren went right along with them. “It was loud there, but she loved it,” Ann says. “The waitresses and owners were wonderful, and were always ready to accommodate us.”
Although she had defied the odds for years, Lauren died in her sleep on
December 19, 2007.
And seven months later, the alchemy began. “I wanted to help other families who have brain-injured children, to help them see what’s possible,” Flood says, and laid the organization’s groundwork.
Today, the non-profit group improves the lives of brain injured children (birth to age 18) and provides social and financial support for their families. “When we get donations, we spend the money on enhancing the life of a child,” Flood says, often by providing adaptive toys, or funding for therapy services or equipment that’s not covered
And those costs can add up – one on-line vendor lists a special-needs stroller at $850.00; another retailer sells a simple “match-the-shapes” toy for $40.00.
Anne Hosterman knows that situation well. Her daughter, Leah (now 10), suffered a stroke at birth, along with cerebral palsy.
Because Leah’s sense of balance isn’t very good, “When we tried a regular bike with training wheels,” Anne recalls, “she was petrified. We thought a big tricycle would be better – but they cost several hundred dollars, and we couldn’t afford it.
“One of our therapists suggested contacting Ann Flood. We filled out some paperwork, with the hope that we’d get a break on the tricycle’s price. The next thing we knew, Ann called and said the Foundation was buying it for us!” The pink (Leah’s choice) three-wheeler came complete with a custom plaque that reads, “Fly like the wind, Leah!”
But financial help is only part of the picture; there’s a social side to the organization
Each December, Lauren’s Hope sponsors a Christmas breakfast party at the Hotel Bethlehem. Children and parents enjoy a sit-down meal, capped off with a special visit from Santa himself. That jolly old elf hands out gifts (based on parent-provided wish lists), and poses with the kids for photos. “Christmas City Studios takes fabulous portraits of the children,” Flood says, “and then donates them to the families in time
The party also features a wheelchair-friendly “gingerbread house” filled with fiber-optic lights and special toys. Two occupational therapists donate their time as supervisors.
The Foundation works with St. Luke’s University Health Network to provide a Mother’s Day program of a one-hour massage and professional manicure. And dads can release some stress during annual “wings and brews” nights at Detzi’s.
But perhaps the Foundation’s greatest achievement (so far) is its partnership with Lehigh Valley Health Network’s (LVHN) neonatal intensive care unit.
The Foundation has donated a pair of head-cooling systems and brain-wave monitors to the LVHN NICU, and served as a full partner in the development of the Hypothermia for Neuroprotection program, which launched last March.
“Babies who have low-blood flow/low-oxygen conditions are at high risk for severe neurological disabilities and cognitive difficulties,” says Lorraine A. Dickey, MD, chief of neonatology at LVHN. “And good evidence indicates that these devices can reduce the number of babies that develop such impairments.” She stresses that brain injury alone does not automatically qualify a baby for this kind of treatment; other criteria apply as well.
The new program enables the hospital to keep local families together; otherwise, fathers would have to choose either staying with the mother at home, or staying with the baby at a hospital in Philadelphia or Hershey for the treatment.
Despite its accomplishments, the Foundation isn’t sitting still. On March 16, it will host the Butterfly Ball, a fundraiser at the Hotel Bethlehem. The “Venetian masquerade”-themed event has tapped Dr. John Van Brakle, chairman of pediatrics at LVH, as its honorary chairman. The evening will feature dinner, dancing, a silent auction and other festivities. Get more information by visiting laurenshopefoundation.com and clicking on the banner.