By Brian Castle
Every so often, a story comes along that causes you to pause, be thankful for what you have, and take inspiration from those who suffer and live to tell their stories to lift others during their times of need. One of our colleagues here at Thought Leader Select, Allison Murphy, has such a story.
Allison, a mother of three, registered nurse, and long-time medical science liaison in the pharmaceutical industry at Eli Lilly, joined our company last fall as a business development consultant based in her home in the Boston/Cambridge biopharma corridor. I had the opportunity to speak with her recently about a recent life-changing event rooted in a whole series of life-changing events years ago.
Like many women, Allison has dealt with the emotional distress that arises from premature birth. All three of her boys were premature in their arrivals, beginning with her eldest son, Patrick, now a happy, healthy young man of 13. Patrick arrived at 29 weeks, 11 weeks premature, and the family endured the personal gauntlet of spending 10 weeks in the neo-natal intensive care unit as he and his mother struggled to gain and regain sustainable health at the hospital. During that stay and the months that followed soon after, Patrick would be among the first wave of kids administered MedImmune’s breakthrough new treatment for the prevention of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a condition that had plagued premature babies with severe lung disease repercussions.
Fast forward to 2013, and Allison and Patrick have been reflecting on their long, mainly healthy journey since those fateful first 10 weeks in the hospital after Patrick’s birth. After a kitchen-table brainstorming session, the two Murphys came up with a great idea for impacting the lives of others impacted by the emotional, physical, and spiritual torture that comes along with premature birth—the Preemie Teen Ambassadors.
“It’s a way for us to share some love with people who need it,” Allison explained to me. “The idea is that Patrick and other teens, aged 12-17, can visit families in the NICU, and just give them some hope. When I was there, it was like time just froze. The despair that came from being there, not being able to take my baby home—it was overwhelming and all-encompassing at times. I just know that when these families see smiling, healthy kids like Patrick come to visit them and share their stories, so full of hope and love, that even if it’s just enough to get those families through one day in the NICU, it’ll be an incredible way to give back to the preemie community.”
Last month, Allison, her husband, Jim, and Patrick received invitations to speak at MedImmune’s twin anniversary events commemorating the company’s 25th anniversary, as well as the 15th anniversary of the RSV treatment, Synagis. The Murphys spoke about their journey, the peace of mind that had come from drugs developed to protect preemies, and their burgeoning new charity, the Preemie Teen Ambassadors. The family was honored to share the stage as keynote speakers as the guests of MedImmune founder Wayne Hockmeyer, and at a subsequent event, had the opportunity to visit with the scientists and other workers in MedImmune’s manufacturing facilities.
“The whole series of events were all just breathtaking,” Allison explained. “I went not as a pharma person or a consultant—just as a mom. And to have that special connection, as a mom, with the people who work every day to come up with new ways to protect my son and other babies born prematurely was beyond inspiring. To have those people speak to my son and share how much he had personally inspired them to keep up their great work was truly one of the top moments of my life. It’s really helped my family come full circle from those days in the NICU.”
To cap it all off, MedImmune’s employees, as part of a week-long philanthropic endeavor to celebrate the company’s anniversary, voted to fund Patrick’s Preemie Teen Ambassadors initiative with a startup grant of $5,000. The Murphys are exploring different avenues to implement the program around the country, beginning with a pilot at a Boston-area hospital. Allison says that the family and their friends in the preemie community want to roll the program out to 10 American metropolitan areas in the program’s first year, providing leadership opportunities for teens and love and hope for the families they visit in the NICU.