Lightbridge Academy in Westwood, New Jersey has educated and cared for the needs of hundreds of young families in Westwood and surrounding areas. However, when a crisis struck close to home, they rallied to support one of their own along with backing from their non-profit arm, the Lightbridge Foundation. When Crystal Connolly, Center Director, learned her newborn baby would be born with a heart defect, her workplace provided support unlike any other.
On January 11, 2017, “I was going in for a typical ultrasound,” said Connolly, but her world was thrown upside down. After a few tests, the doctors told her that the soon-to-be baby-boy was suffering from a rare congenital heart defect while in utero. The condition is called Transposition of the Great Arteries.
In non-technical language, Transposition of the Great Arteries, occurs when the heart valves and arteries are “switched”. It is often discovered during pregnancy and can be fatal if not surgically treated. According to Connolly, the defect affects 1,200 out of 4,000,000 babies born per year in the U.S., which is a 0.0003% chance.
As the necessity for a major surgery became clear, uncertainty filled Connolly’s mind. They did not know how they were going to prepare, both financially and emotionally, for what was next. The two apprehensively planned for the care of their young preschooler in addition to the needs of their soon to be born infant. Traveling from New Jersey into NYC for checkups prior to birth, a lifesaving heart surgery and then an extended recovery in the neonatal intensive care unit would be extremely difficult to manage.
Connolly requested an extended maternity leave to care for her family and the Westwood center and corporate team discussed how they could help support their standout center director.
Fortunately, Lightbridge Academy is a company with core values that are focused on the word “children”. All of the Westwood families and staff raised funds and the Lightbridge Foundation offered to match their efforts with a grant. Since the foundation was created to support the needs of all those within their Circle of Care including those in the communities they serve, Connolly’s circumstances perfectly met the criteria.
Lightbridge Academy provided Crystal with the peace of mind and time she needed to help her son James recover and also covered all other medical and commuting expenses. Extremely humbled, Connolly accepted the offer.
James Connolly was born on May 18, 2017, and underwent open heart surgery six days after his birth.
The recovery period was intense, with the family commuting to Columbia University’s hospital in New York City everyday for the following few weeks. Connolly explained that the commute wasn’t that difficult, but commuting costs added up quickly with bridge tolls, gas and parking. To park around the hospital, Connolly said was almost one hundred dollars a day. “We are so thankful for Lightbridge’s support because at that time and in that situation, we don’t know how we would have been able to afford it.”
Crystal took the amount of time she needed to care for James, and returned to work on September 1st.
“Without the help, I’m not sure how my husband and I would have supported our daughter and daily lives. The Westwood families, staff and the Lightbridge foundation completely supported us,” she said. “If I worked for any other company, I’m not sure where we would be today.”
James is now a healthy baby boy and his family looks toward his first birthday this May. He and his sister are students at Lightbridge Academy of Westwood. “It’s a gift to get to see my both of children every day and work for a company that cares!”