Pet Visit Inspires Children's Hospital Gift

Laurie MeadeMADISON - In April 2004, Laurie Meade (pictured) of Watertown was fighting for her life. Courageously, she was battling a complication of her double lung transplant two years earlier for cystic fibrosis. She could not speak, and a tracheotomy tube helped her breathe. As was typical for Laurie, she stoically tried to mask that her spirits were low, but her family knew better.
Knowing that Laurie needed something to lift her spirits, people close to her wanted to help. Her brother, Bob, finally hit on the perfect idea - a visit from her dog, Beck.
"I had heard that Laurie loved animals," recalls Theresa McDonald, RN, a UW Hospital and Clinics trauma nurse who cared for Laurie. "I am an animal lover, too, so when I started talking about animals one day, she just lit up. I kind of knew right away what had to be done."
With several family members and hospital staff helping out, arrangements were quickly made for Beck to come to the hospital and spend a few precious minutes with Laurie.
"It was a challenge to move Laurie outside because of her physical constraints and the limitations of her breathing equipment," says Theresa. "With several staff members assisting, we moved Laurie outside when suddenly, up the stairs comes Bob with Laurie's dog in tow.
"The color in Laurie's face was incredible," says Theresa. "Laurie's expression lit up the whole corner of the hospital. There was not a dry eye to be seen, even from the doctors."
Laurie's mother, Kitty Ricciardelli of Waukesha, says the visit between Laurie and Beck lasted no more than 10 minutes, but it meant the world to her daughter.
"Nobody on earth loved her pets more than Laurie did," says Theresa. "That short visit Laurie had with Beck gave her the will to fight to the end. Nothing else could have inspired her this way, and no one who was there will ever forget it."
Inspired by the emotional impact of Laurie's goodbye visit with Beck - who is alive today at age 9 - Laurie's family was determined to find a way to make sure other patients could spend time with their pets as she did.
Shortly after Laurie's death on May 5, 2004, her parents, Kitty and Bob, sister Andrea, brother Bob and their families - along with Laurie's surviving spouse, Dr. Jeffrey Meade of Watertown - created a special fund to memorialize her.
Proceeds from this fund, which are raised through an annual benefit known as the Fur Ball and memorials to Laurie, have been donated to the new American Family Children's Hospital, which will open in Madison in July.
"Laurie's parents and I wanted to carry on her memory in a way that will benefit terminally ill children at the American Family Children's Hospital," says Dr. Meade. "As a result, our gift will fund a space known as the Laurie Meade Pet Visitation Room."
The specially equipped room will provide families a designated area in which they can bring their children's pets into the hospital, allowing for visits similar to the one Laurie had with Beck.
"We cannot think of a more meaningful way to give something to other families who are experiencing what our family did with Laurie," says Dr. Meade. "We only hope that having this special place will allow families the same kind of inspirational memory we had when Beck came to visit Laurie."

Date Published: 06/05/2007

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