Powered by parents’ passion: Connecting with others for support

Judy Doyle

Judy Doyle

Judy Doyle lives by her motto, “Trust your instincts and don’t be afraid to ask for help.”

No one knows better than Judy that sometimes, that’s all you’ve got.

Fifteen years ago, when Judy was pregnant with her son, Jack, an ultrasound revealed potential birth defects, but all they were sure of at the time was that he would need to see an orthopedic specialist following his birth.

With no maternal fetal program available in 1998, Judy did as much research and preparation on her own as she could.

When Jack stopped breathing and was brought to Akron Children’s at 6 weeks old, the doctors knew something was terribly wrong; they just didn’t know what.

“This started the ball rolling on what was a three-year journey to Jack’s diagnosis of CFC, a condition shared by only 300 children around the world,” said Judy. Akron Children’s genetics team was key in leading them to the cardio-facio-cutaneous diagnosis.

At the time, Judy’s family joined CFC International, a parent/advocacy group. That association led them to connect with more than 200 kids around the world with Jack’s condition.

Jack Doyle

Jack Doyle

The CFC group collected and stored DNA from parents and affected children for research purposes. Working with a researcher in California, they were the first parent group to be co-authored on a gene discovery paper.

Early on Judy knew she wanted to do more to help families facing similar circumstances.

“The Parent Mentor Program at Children’s was just getting started and I knew that supporting other families going through a similar experience was something I wanted to do,” Doyle said. “I interviewed to be a volunteer and was asked to apply to become a hospital employee as the program’s first coordinator.”

Parents in the program not only support each other, but they volunteer as advisors to provide the hospital with their valuable insight.

“It gives parents a voice and helps put meaning to what we go through with our children,” said Doyle.

As a member of Akron Children’s Parent Advisory Council, Judy began participating on hospital committees, and encouraging other parent advisors to participate.

She sits on the ethics committee, patient safety work groups and has recently helped create a Parent Advisory Council in the Mahoning Valley.

“What’s so neat about it all is that it is totally driven by the passion of parents just like me,” she said. “And Children’s responds by doing a great job of helping families participate in patient care.”

Judy also beams when she speaks of the support she gets from everyone at the hospital – as a parent and as an employee. That includes:

  • the many connections Bill Considine, hospital CEO and president, and the staff make with families;
  • being able to hold Jack while he went to sleep before emergency surgery; and
  • the Children’s Home Care aide who is with Jack 4 days a week – without which, Judy would have never been able to take her job at Akron Children’s.

Additionally, the resounding support she received from everyone during her treatment for breast cancer has put the exclamation point on her happiness in being a part of such a special place.

“You know what we do best? We listen. And that makes a bigger impact on families than we even realize.”

Akron Children’s Hospital is launching the “My Promise. My Children’s.” employee campaign to raise money in support of the hospital’s $200 million “Building on the Promise” campus expansion project. As part of the campaign, several employees have stepped forward to share their own experiences at Akron Children’s as a parent and a colleague.

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