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“I’m One of St. Joe’s Biggest Fans”

In June of 2016, Justine Chambers’ morning started out like any other, until a call from her 9-year-old daughter’s school changed everything.

“They told me Jennifer was having a seizure, but more like a staring trance that she wouldn’t come out of. I rushed to school not knowing what I would find when I got there,” says Justine, her voice becoming emotional at the memory.

By the time Justine arrived her daughter seemed to be more like herself, which was a relief but her pediatrician referred her to a neurologist who sent her to St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital for further testing.

“Honestly, at that point, I was thinking, it could just be epilepsy, and was already trying to figure out what that would mean for Jennifer and our family.”

An abnormal EEG and a follow up MRI revealed frightening news. Jennifer had a slow bleed on her brain. Malformed blood vessels which occurred in utero began to slowly leak as Jennifer grew. Most people never know they even have this condition until an episode like Jennifer’s, which can sometimes result in more tragic outcomes.

“It took a moment for me to process the news, but the doctors at St. Joe’s were all so wonderful, taking the time to explain everything in simple terms and reassuring me that with surgery, Jennifer’s prognosis for recovery was good. Their knowledge and expertise was so apparent as they took me through everything step by step, and they even made sure we had a social worker with us when we told Jennifer and she was absolutely amazing.”

For Justine, that initial experience only cemented her decision to have Jennifer treated at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital.

“I mean we were talking brain surgery, so of course I wanted to make sure she got the best possible care. I would have travelled anywhere for it. But when the neurologist said St. Joe’s was the place to go, I was so happy because I just felt really good about being there.”

Jennifer’s surgery was scheduled two days after her 10th birthday. From the moment she walked into the hospital Justine remembered feeling oddly calm.

“I think the best way to explain it is that as a parent I also felt taken care of. And as I watched the doctors and nurses with my daughter, I saw she was being taken care of, and not just in the physical sense but just the way they spoke to her and treated her, with such kindness and warmth. The neurosurgeon even came in and braided Jennifer’s hair herself! I was so incredibly touched by that. It all just made me feel comfortable and confident.”

Jennifer’s four-hour surgery was a complete success and Justine was grateful for the expertise that made it so.  Her daughter spent another five days at St. Joe’s so they could keep a close eye on her.

“Being in the hospital isn’t fun for anyone but Jennifer loved seeing the therapy dogs and the playroom was just amazing. There was even a special pantry with ice cream and snacks. We visited the pantry a lot! And everyone was just so upbeat and helpful. Yes, the medical care was phenomenal, but it’s those little things that are the icing on the cake during what can be a scary, stressful time for kids and their family.”

Today Jennifer is a perfectly healthy teenager and honor roll student who loves to hang out with friends. She recalls very little about her hospital experience five years ago, however, her mom, remembers every single detail.

“I just can’t say enough about the care Jennifer received at St. Joe’s – and about the support I was shown as well. I did have family helping, but the way the team at St. Joe’s took care of me in addition to my daughter has left such an imprint on my heart. It’s why I am one of St. Joe’s biggest fans and why I tell everyone I know to go there. Because on any given day your world can change. That’s why I am sharing my story.  Before this happened, I really didn’t know how lucky we were to have a place like St. Joe’s in our community and now I want to make sure everyone knows.”