ST. LOUIS, MO – Wayne and Lauren Turley were already parents of two-year- old Madeline so, at the 20-week sonogram for their second child, they thought they knew what to expect. Nothing could have prepared them for the news that their baby, due in just four months, would not survive.
Two weeks later, physicians at Mercy Hospital confirmed the diagnosis of Trisomy 18, an error in cell division that causes an extra chromosome 18 and results in severe birth defects. Wayne remembers, “We were in shock and finding it hard to do even normal things like planning dinner.“ Lauren adds, “It’s like your life is on hold because even with the diagnosis, you are still hoping — you just don’t know how it’s going to play out.”
Wayne said, “Our friends and family delivered meals which gave us more time to bond and grieve over the baby we named, Catherine.” But, there were times when the family just had to get out of the house. “We went out to restaurants for a sense of normalcy and to be around people who didn’t know us and wouldn’t ask questions,” said Lauren.
That’s when the Turleys started laying groundwork for their non-profit organization that provides gift cards for restaurant meals and fuel to lift some of the burden for grieving families. “We created, Catherine Cares because we wanted our daughter to have a legacy. Of course, we would rather have Catherine here — now, we just want her short life to mean something,” said Wayne.
Lauren’s obstetrician, Dr. Laura Vricella, of Mercy Hospital St. Louis explained, “Learning that one’s unborn child has a difficult diagnosis such as Trisomy 18 is a life-altering event. The sense of loss can be all-consuming even before birth.” Dr. Vricella added, “I was impressed and inspired by Wayne and Lauren’s creativity and perseverance in founding this service for others at a time when they were still grappling with their own feelings.”
Nurse Karen Graham agreed, “I have seen, first-hand, how overwhelming and paralyzing this news can be. A gift from Catherine Cares fills an immediate need of providing several meals but it also helps the Mercy Hospital Fetal Care Team fill an even bigger need; providing our patients the knowledge they are not alone in their struggle.”
Catherine Marie Turley was born two months early on December 30. She lived only one hour but it was long enough to make a difference. Ten days prior to her arrival, the Turley’s launched Catherine Cares. The first gift cards were delivered to hospitals three months after Catherine’s birth. Each card is worth at least $75 but varies by family size. The family can choose breakfast, lunch, or dinner from a list of dine-in restaurants.
Wayne said knowing that they are bringing relief to other families helps their own healing process. “Now, every time we get a call from a hospital asking about the program or receive a note of thanks, it is bitter sweet,” he said. “It is a reminder that yet another family is going through the pain of a devastating diagnosis.”
“All the stories are different, “Lauren said, “But we all have that heartache in common. We want to help relieve that pain and provide a bit of normalcy. If that’s all we can do — that’s enough.”
Catherine Cares is a non-profit (501c3) organization founded by the Turley family in November 2014 to provide restaurant and fuel gift cards to families who receive devastating diagnoses. All contributions are tax deductible. Support from Catherine Cares allows families to focus their attention on the people who truly matter. Partner with us to help spread Catherine’s love. Together we can make a difference for families embarking on a difficult journey. For more information about Catherine Cares and how you can help, visit www.catherinecares.org or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.