by: Courtney and Philip Bernardi
There are times in your life that change you, truly change you. They rock your world in such a way that you can never look at life the same way. August 28, 2018, was a time in our lives that did exactly that.
Our family woke up on Tuesday, August 28, 2018, and started our normal routine. A routine we do so often we don’t even think about it anymore. However, this time it was different. Our five month old son Luca was not himself, something was very wrong. We had no clue just how wrong it was, but we knew he needed medical attention and needed it quickly. After dropping off our precious 4.5 year old daughter at pre-K we rushed our little boy to Piedmont Athens Regional Hospital. In route, we tried so hard to remain calm, to think positively, to prepare. However, as a parent you can never ever prepare yourself for something bad happening to your child, you just can’t.
We arrived at Piedmont Athens Regional scared and the amazing staff recognized our fears right away. But more importantly, they recognized our son needed their attention in a major way. We watched helplessly as the doctors and nurses sped around doing all they could to literally save our son’s precious life. All we knew at this time was according to his Drs., “Luca [was] a very, very sick little boy” and there was absolutely nothing we could do to help. After a quick examination, the medical team at Piedmont Athens Regional, still trying to figure out exactly what was happening, decided our sweet Luca needed specialized care from one of their tremendous partners. The Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA) team was called, and we were told we had to get our son to CHOA Scottish Rite fast. We were then told, “the helicopter [was] on its way.” Our son, our baby boy, was being life flighted. We needed a minute to process. Thankfully, we were given that minute, but only a minute…the shortest minute of our lives, before our sweet Luca, hooked up to a ventilator, was loaded onto a brightly colored helicopter and on his way to Atlanta.
Shortly after arriving to CHOA, we learned our five month old baby boy, was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis and two different viruses. His body had been ravaged by these bugs and he was in a fight for his life. Looking at our Luca laying so lifelessly in his hospital room, we began to pray. We prayed harder than we ever have before, and little did we know, we weren’t alone in our prayers.
They say in a small town news travels fast, and this time we were so thankful that our news spread quickly in our amazing small town. Prayers and love began flooding in from all over our community. People we don’t even know were covering us in thoughts, prayers, love and so much more. We were scared, we were tired, but we weren’t alone. Our lives had been changed, first in a devastating way and then in a most extraordinary way. We were 62 miles from home, but we never once felt alone. Our community, our home, loved us like we were their own family members. We were and are so thankful, so very thankful.
We spent 10 long days in Atlanta in one of the best, most amazing medical facilities in the country. CHOA Scottish Rite, a place with the most amazing doctors, nurses and team members, gave us back our sweet little boy. Simply put, they saved Luca’s life and changed ours. We are forever grateful for the care we all received while at CHOA, they ensured that the whole family felt their care, their love.
We received a miracle and knew immediately that we wanted to give back. We wanted to do something to show our sincere thanks to CHOA and to bring comfort to those who are still waiting for their miracles and those who will unfortunately follow behind and need miracles of their own. And because our community is so very remarkable, we knew we could ask that they jump on board our decision to collect lovies. Thus, in a small hospital room with a healing baby laughing and smiling, something we weren’t sure 6 days prior would ever happen again, Luca’s Lovies was born.
CHOA gave us the goal of collecting 100 lovies. But, being the competitive family we are, we knew we could do better. And thanks to Oconee County, our community, our home, we have collected 450 lovies to give to those precious little ones fighting so hard in Atlanta. Lovies we hope will bring smiles, hope and comfort during difficult times. Something little we could to give back to the special place where our lives changed, the place that gave us our son’s life back and the place where so many amazing young people are fighting for their miracles.
We are so thankful. We are so blessed. We are so loved. We are proud to give back.
We are all these things and more because our lives changed.