United States

Meet RSM Pursue Your Passion Winner: Mary Theo


Alliance Talent Leader | Boston, MA

On August 3, 2017, my daughter, Cassie, gave birth to her first baby. She had severe complications and we almost lost her. She is now fully recovered after dealing with medical issues for several months.

Since my grandson Joey was two weeks old, he would have daily episodes where he would stop breathing. We knew there would be issues as there were issues with him also in the delivery room. He was an Intrauterine Growth Restricted baby with severe esophageal, breathing and kidney issues. He has been in and out of hospitals his entire 15 months, as they discovered vocal cord damage, which impedes his ability to speak properly and interferes with his reflux, which causes him distress. He is allergic to dairy, and aspirates clear liquids, so at 15 months, he is still on formula with rice cereal and can only eat purees. Despite all of his health issues, he is the happiest little boy I have ever seen, always smiling and waving.

His best pal continues to be a play turtle named Iggy he has had since birth. He smiles every time he sees Iggy; Iggy has gone to all doctor appointments and hospital stays and has been a constant companion that he holds, smiles at and talks to.

I can remember Christmas Eve in 2016 when my daughter presented my husband and me with a gift of baby onesies, one saying “I Love Nana” and the other “I Love Papou." We were thrilled!

Joey has not had one day without an issue. A couple of months ago, he caught a virus and went to a zero neutrophil count, a high fever that lasted for days and no immune system. After three days in Boston Children's Hospital, they said he would be safer home away from germs and that there was nothing more they could do given the IVs were not bringing his counts up. They determined from a blood test that there was something wrong with his bone marrow so they had us bring him back for a bone marrow aspiration to rule out leukemia and infection. Before he had the test, they checked his neutrophils again, and his counts were normal, so he was spared the test. They cannot explain why but I truly believe it was the power of prayer. This little boy is still clinging to his pal Iggy.  

My daughter never loses her patience or raises her voice, and is a constant source of comfort to Joey. She reads to him regularly and after reading My Favorite Part of the Day by Nicole Knudtson, a fellow RSM teammate and a 2016 Pursue Your Passion winner, I told Cassie about RSM’s Pursue Your Passion program and how Nicole’s journey came to be.  It reminded me of when I used to tell stories to Cassie and her sister Maria (Joey's Godmother) when they were little at bedtime.

Cassie is very artistic, and when I used to read to her, often times a day later I would get a sketch of part of a story I read. She reminisced over those memories with me and said, “What if you, Maria and I wrote a book together about the adventures of Joey and Iggy and I do the illustrations for the book?” This could be something we could continue to read to him when he gets older and is healthy, and it's also a book we could donate to children in hospitals.

When Joey had a three-day stay in the hospital, there were volunteers reading to the children, playing acoustic guitar and singing to the younger ones who couldn’t comprehend a story. We saw quite a few of the children listening to the story and hanging on every word and even smiling through their pain. What a great gift it would be to give back to children at hospitals all over the country and especially Boston Children's Hospital where they have continued to help Joey progress.

I saw a spark in my daughter's eye and something positive she could focus on, as she is focused on Joey, his care and his hospital visits/stays 24/7. It's something we could always have for Joey and it would let him know what a strong little boy he is and how much Iggy brought light to him and to us. Also, the potential that their adventures could bring joy to other sick children everywhere is compelling. The book would not be about illness,  but about the adventures of a little boy and his favorite pet turtle (stuffed animal that comes to life only for Joey), the places they go in Joey's mind and the things that they do that would be exciting to other children. The budget would allow us to publish the book and travel to major children's hospitals to read the book to children and donate books to area hospitals.

We are so very grateful that Joey is with us, continues to overcome his obstacles, is so loved by his family and the team at Boston Children's Hospital, and that Iggy is everywhere with him. We also would like to visit some RSM offices to promote the book, as it is a tale of imagination and positivity for the young. I know the book would make a positive difference for families and encourage more quality time between parents, grandparents, caretakers and children. There is nothing in the world that means more to me than my family and this endeavor would bring a great deal of joy to people. And the fact that we would be spreading joy to others we don't know who need it more than we do inspires us more.