Letter to the Editor: The Heart of Our Community

The below letter to the editor is from Jake and Sarah Slocum

Several years ago, a man in passing once said to me “We live in Mayberry, and we are just too caught up in our own world to realize it.” Initially when he said that I brushed it off as just a person being proud of the community in which they were raised, but within the past several months during a recent challenge within my family, I have had a newfound respect and appreciation for our special community. 

My name is Jake Slocum, and I am a lifelong resident of Lincoln Parish. My wife is Sarah Slocum, and we welcomed our first-born son, Jack Slocum, April 9th of this year. During the entire pregnancy, we did not have any issues. Sarah did not have any type of sickness, the ultrasounds were coming back perfectly, Jack was on the expected path of growth, and everything was looking up. On Good Friday morning, five weeks prior to his due date, we found out that Sarah’s water had in fact broken after a trip to the emergency room at NLMC.

Initially, we were not concerned because nothing had shown up on any checkups and we all thought that Jack was a stubborn boy who was ready to welcome himself to the world. We consulted with the doctors involved with Sarah and Jack’s case, and we felt that we had a game plan going forward because of the people whom we knew personally. There is a special level of comfort when you know and truly trust everyone around you during the most special day of your life, and we could see it in each of their eyes, they wanted to be there for us.

The care we received from all the nurses and medical staff was beyond exception. Once Jack was born on Easter Sunday, we did notice that he had labored breathing, and we all felt that the best decision was to send him to the NICU at St. Francis.

Jack was immediately sent by ambulance to St. Francis to be admitted into the NICU, once he was examined they didn’t see any areas of concern (which was no surprise to us) and the plan going forward was that he just needed a little time to allow his lungs to mature and we should be home in about two to three weeks, worst case scenario. We went back and forth from our home in Arcadia to Monroe every day to be with him and for the moment this was our new normal. After two weeks, Jack hit a stall and he was not getting better but he was not getting worse. All the medical personnel were perplexed at what was going on because the details of his case did not make sense.

After three and a half weeks at St. Francis NICU, Sarah and I sat down with the doctor on Jack’s case, and he advised us that we needed to seek a higher level of care. I immediately knew we were either being transferred to either Shreveport or New Orleans to Ochsner’s.

I looked at the doctor and said, “Are we going to Shreveport or New Orleans?”  He looked over his glasses and said with a slight somber tone, “New Orleans.”  Our hearts sank because we were unsure of the next step to take or any step to take for that matter. It was approximately 4:30 pm, and we were told by the staff that Jack was going to be airlifted to New Orleans that evening between 10:00 and midnight. We called our parents and close family friends about Jack’s transfer and slowly word started to spread of what was going on.

Sarah and I left St. Francis and started making our way home to gather what luggage and what we thought we needed because we had no idea what we were doing and where we were going. When I got home, I packed up what I thought I needed and allowed Sarah to have her time and my brother and sister-in-law showed up to give us some words of encouragement. Within the next 30 minutes, close friends and family were there to pray over us before we left. 

For those of you who were in my living room at that moment, you all have a special place in our hearts because that was the proper send off for our next hospital journey. We packed up, raced to the hospital because we were running late, and watched Jack fly south into the dark from the ground to a hospital we knew nothing about.

The next morning on our way to New Orleans, we received a call that they have located Jack’s issue, and it is an extremely rare heart condition that would require open heart surgery. It was a conversation that was relieving yet gut wrenching at the same time but now we at least had a path going forward. We made a few phone calls to those same close friends and family about the news that we had just heard, and we did not know what was about to happen next.

About 30 minutes later, mine and Sarah’s phones started imploding with text messages, words of encouragement, phone calls, scripture for comfort, people offering us their condo to stay for free, people offering us to stay in their airbnb for free, and Venmo after Venmo. We were overwhelmed with the support from our community, and it was the most humbling experience I have ever had.

During our stay, we had friends bring us lunch, they brought us gifts, they made us get out of the hospital and took us to dinner to get away for some normalcy. About a week into our stay and when I thought that our community could not possibly give my family any more support, my parents came to the hospital and handed me a packet and said this is the next round of people who wanted to help. In that packet it was at minimum another 30 – 40 people who had given us even more support and words of encouragement.

I thought I could not get any more humbled and I could not have been more wrong. The fact that hundreds of people, some of whom we did not even know, freely gave and gave words of encouragement was the most eye-opening experience I had ever had about the true nature of the community in which we all live in. In a story that can go on with far more details, I will condense the details of our stay in New Orleans. Jack had a highly successful surgery and was on a quick path to recovery.

The care and expertise that we received during our time was nothing less than perfect. After open heart surgery and three long weeks, we were finally able to come home once and for all. I can’t tell you how happy Sarah and I were to finally bring our baby boy home, and we were ready to start the next step of finally getting to be parents. 

Jack is currently doing great, and Sarah and I are very blessed with family, friends, church family, and a community who cares. I implore everyone to reach out to someone going through a challenging time and offer your support because I promise you, it will not go unnoticed. This letter is to thank each person who sent a text, made a phone call, lifted us up in prayer, sent a Venmo, and supported us in so many other ways.

We all truly live in “Mayberry”, and it is something we should all be proud of and cherish. This community means everything to my family because during our times of uncertainty, our community rallied behind us and made it known that no matter what we needed, they were there to see us through. Sarah and I are forever grateful for the love, support, and friendship from our special community.

To the heart of Mayberry … thank you once again.