Expecting their first baby in the spring of 2004, Mike and Tiffani Haught of Gilberts received the bad news during a February ultrasound 20 weeks into the pregnancy.
"They were having problems finding the other part of the heart," Tiffani says. The ultrasound showed a rare and serious congenital defect called hypoplastic left heart syndrome, in which the left side of the heart doesn't develop. The Haughts consulted experts at St. Alexius Medical Center in Hoffman Estates and Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago before ending up at Advocate Hope Children's Hospital in Oak Lawn.
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Their baby daughter, Morgan, was born on June 22, 2004, and immediately tethered to machines in the neonatal intensive care unit as she awaited a complex surgery.
"It was hard. You have a baby, you want to hold her and feed her and change her diaper," Tiffani remembers. She says doctors let the couple hold their baby "once before surgery," and then again "once she passed." Morgan died on July 19.
As painful as that loss was and still is, the Haughts desired to give something back to the hospital and all the medical people.
"Every step of the way, they were helping us and counseling us. They were so good to us," Tiffani says. "It was all the little things they did for us. They were not only caring for her, they were caring for us."
On the couple's wedding anniversary, the hospital staff gave them gift cards for a dinner out during a rare break from their newborn.
"No matter what happens, I want to do something for this unit," Mike told his wife then.
"The foundation was formed pretty much right after she passed," Tiffani says of the Morgan Haught Foundation. "We never had a foundation before. We didn't know what we were doing."
But Mike knew golf and the couple hosted a golf outing benefit in 2005 that made enough money to send a donation that the hospital used to buy a bench for the hospital's "healing garden" in Morgan's memory. But the Haughts wanted to do more.
The hospital gave them a pink fleece baby blanket during Morgan's stay. "We still have it to this day," Tiffani says.
"Now, we provide the funding for those baby blankets," Tiffani says. "One year we were able to put in ceiling tiles (with childhood images such as teddy bears and rainbows) for the patient rooms."
Their fundraisers bought recliners and stools, so parents could be closer to sick kids, and gift cards and gas cards and grocery cards to help families. Two years ago, the Morgan Haught Foundation teamed with a Glen Ellyn family to buy a SimBaby infant patient simulation doll used to train hospital workers.
Mike, a 39-year-old order-verification specialist with Pella Windows, and Tiffani, 36, an 8th-grade special-education teacher in Hanover Park, now have healthy sons Justin, 5, and Ryan, 3. The foundation in their daughter's memory has contributed more than $90,000 to the Pediatric Surgical Heart Unit at Hope Children's Hospital in Oak Lawn.
Last year the annual fundraiser was canceled due to the struggling economy. But this year it is back with a boost from the Chicago Health Executives Forum, a not-for-profit collection of health care professionals, from pharmacists and caregivers to architects and engineers. The golf outing, the first for CHEF in its 35-year history, is "trying to raise $100,000," says Kate Carow, a committee chair for CHEF and owner of Carow Consulting, a health care consulting company in Deerfield.
This year's golf outing on Friday, Aug. 5, at Eaglewood Resort in Itasca will raise money to buy equipment and supplies for 19 Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Units across Chicago and the suburbs, including Adventist Hinsdale Hospital, Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Advocate Lutheran General Children's Hospital in Park Ridge, Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield, Edward Hospital in Naperville, the John H. Stroger Hospital of Cook County in Chicago, Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights, Rush-Copley Medical Center in Aurora and St. Alexius Medical Center in Hoffman Estates.
"It's a mixture between the family feel and the corporate golf outing," Carow says of the fundraiser.
"It will be a bittersweet day, but it's warming to know that people are coming for her and this good cause," Tiffani says. "I just know how hard the experience was for us. Whatever their outcome, I would always hope for the best for others. It sounds weird, but I want them to have the good experience we had. The outcome was not good, but we did what we could. If we can make things a little easier for these people, that makes us feel good."