The Magic of Kosair Children’s Hospital

There was a time once when, in the minds of new parents Morgan and Chris McGarvey, a call from the hospital meant only one thing: bad news. It was an ongoing fear and the parents’ natural instinct, having been confronted with relentless emotional turmoil for the past few months. When the call came through late one evening, they naturally rushed to the hospital.

“It turns out the doctors knew that we were just involved parents and just wanted to call and give us an update,” recalls Chris McGarvey.

But the concern was justified. A few months prior, Chris McGarvey had given birth to Wilson and Clara, now 3, prematurely. At 26 weeks, they came out unready for the world and had an uncertain future. And for 99 days, they would spend that uncertainty in the neonatal intensive care unit at Kosair Children’s Hospital.

The McGarvey Family“A lot of people don’t know what a 26-week-old baby looks like,” explains Morgan McGarvey, who represents the 19th district in the Kentucky Senate. “When Clara was born, she was a pound and a half, and you could fit my wedding band around her arm. She was not much bigger in length than the palm of my hand.”

At that age life is fragile. Skin, yet to develop,  is translucent. Feeding and digestion don’t come easy. And perhaps most important of all, the lungs are not strong enough to sustain life on their own. Tubes, respirators, sensors and foreign noises soon become the uncomfortable norm. Thus began a long journey for Morgan and Chris McGarvey. But the prognosis got a little better each day. Their doctor was “cautiously optimistic.”     

Finally the doctors said they could finally bring Clara and Wilson home. They would feel the sun on their faces for the first time and finally meet their extended family. Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” blared loudly as loved ones lined the sidewalk leading up to their house –  a parade complete with mandatory hand sanitizer for all.

“It was such a neat feeling to leave the hospital with them,” recalls the state senator. “There were two times when we left the hospital, and the first time was without them.”

The second time marked a true showing of the level of care Kosair provides.

“The doctors insisted on walking Chris out,” Morgan McGarvey recalls fondly, as Chris tears up beside him at the memory. “The doctors insisted on carrying Clara to the car.”

One thing the McGarveys are certain of is that without Kosair Children’s Hospital, Clara and Wilson wouldn’t to be here today. Despite the difficulty of their own journey as concerned parents, they feel indebted to the hospital and its tireless work for children throughout the city and state.

For the McGarveys, promoting this work has become “a calling” – a chance to help ensure other parents eventually experience good news  – by raising as much awareness as possible. There are still days when they worry, but perhaps all parents do.

“Now we worry about stuff other parents worry about,” says Chris, laughing. “But for a while there, we were in a pretty unique club.”

Three years later, the sixth annual Bourbon and Bowties event will honor Clara and Wilson McGarvey for their fighting spirit, their survival against the odds. It will also recognize and raise money for Kosair Children’s Hospital with a special dinner at Corbett’s. While the event is sold out, it’s still a chance for the McGarveys to highlight the work that Kosair Children’s Hospital does.

“We never got used to it,” adds Morgan, “but we eventually realized it would be OK, because we had the team of doctors around who could handle it. Kosair Children’s Hospital is one of those things that is a true jewel in this community, something that perhaps we don’t appreciate until we need it. And then when you need it, it’s amazing to have that kind of care.”

“Their best chance of survival was at Kosair,” concludes Chris. “At the best children’s hospital.”