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June 5th, 2020
On November 2, 2011, Lindsey and Rob Pearson welcomed Miles into the world. Arriving three months early, Miles spent the first weeks of his life at ThedaCare Regional Medical Center in Neenah, Wisconsin. Eventually, Lindsey had to return to work on a part-time basis, and that’s where she was when she received the phone call that would turn the Pearsons’ world upside down.
A seemingly harmless bump on Miles’ belly turned out to be necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a bacterial infection in the wall of the intestine. His intestine had ruptured and his little body had become septic. The only chance Miles had for survival was to be airlifted to Children’s Wisconsin. Reliant on a breathing machine (that had never been used on an infant before in flight), there was great uncertainty around whether Miles would even survive the flight.
Lindsey held Miles close, walked him down to the helicopter pad, and made the trek from Neenah to Milwaukee. His first of several surgeries was performed bedside. Lindsey recalls, “I remember the surgeon sitting down and saying, ‘He is by far the sickest child in the state of Wisconsin right now, and I don’t know if he will survive the night.’”
Miles did survive, and he became one of the first infants to be treated with a technique that enabled surgeons to keep his incision open so they could clean out the sepsis every two to three days while protecting him from further infection.
The Pearsons knew they had a long road ahead of them. They had been staying at a nearby hotel and the bills were starting to add up. Lindsey is the first to admit that she was skeptical – turned off, even – about staying at the Ronald McDonald House. She wasn’t sure she’d have privacy, and she did not want to feel that she had to talk about what was happening with Miles with others at the House. After some encouragement from her mom and husband, Lindsey came to see the House and her preconceived notions were quickly proven wrong. Over the next three months, the House became the Pearson family’s home.
Lindsey reflects on her long nights at the House. “The prayers I would say at night, the thoughts of what he was going to be like if he did survive – all these things happened here. I cried here. I laughed here. We celebrated our first Christmas being parents in this home.”
Lindsey recalls sharing the tiny living space in their long term room with their extended family for what would turn out to be a very special holiday. Knowing there was something so much more important than opening gifts when they did not know what was going to happen with Miles, it was comforting to have a place where everyone could come together.
Miles’ seventh and final surgery posed a 50/50 chance of survival. With the infection under control, surgeons would determine whether his remaining bowel would enable him to go on to live a healthy life. If there was too much damage, he likely would not survive beyond his first birthday. When Miles’ surgery finished two hours ahead of schedule, it was hard not to assume the worst. But that day, the Pearsons received the very best news – Miles was going to be just fine.
Today, Miles is happy, healthy, and fully aware of the impact RMHC had on his family. Lindsey describes him as witty, funny, giving, kind, and genuine – anyone who interacts with him is touched in some way. He has an old soul that so many are drawn to. In a recent progress report from school, Miles’ teacher shared that he is kind-hearted and helpful, and that he puts a smile on her face every day.
The Pearsons make it a point to give back to the House that became a home for them during the most difficult time in their lives. Each year before Christmas, the family makes the trip from Neenah to deliver wish list items. Historically, they have filled their car to the brim with food and toys, but 2019 was different. That’s when Miles experienced the Magic Room for the first time, inspiring him to ask his friends for toys he could donate in lieu of gifts for his 8th birthday. If that wasn’t generous enough, he also donated two-thirds of the money he had saved throughout the year.
Having recently joined the Ronald McDonald House Charities Eastern Wisconsin Board of Directors, Lindsey is also generous with her time and talents. She is excited to make a difference and be a bigger part of paying it forward to provide the comfort and support that her family experienced firsthand eight years ago.