Berk’s Blessings :: From Austin to NOLA

People often overlook the sentiment of the word “mama bear” – usually reserving its use for a lighthearted Instagram caption or cute hashtag moment. As a mom, the need to protect our babies is literally rooted in our biology, like a dormant instinct that emerges from hibernation the moment our little bundles of joy are born. We face each day with many fears (big and small) for our children, but only a mama bear can truly understand how deeply those fears can be felt.

The mama-bear struggle is real

It’s like once you have a child, your senses get a free-with-purchase upgrade that comes with emotional bells and whistles you’ve never experienced before. Suddenly, you have a new heightened sense of awareness and hyper sensitivity to your worst fears & suspicions. It’s neatly packaged and fully equipped with your own invisible antenna that signals an alarm only you can hear when any kind of danger (real or perceived) is lurking within a 2-foot radius of your precious babies. This is often thought of as excessive worry or paranoia by “non-moms,” i.e. any person you may encounter who is not a mom, including but not limited to your single coworker, your husband & the Amazon Prime delivery guy – who delivers enough Pampers to your doorstep to know he should NEVER ring the doorbell between 1-3pm while your child is napping … or ever.

The problem is there’s no instruction manual to explain how it all works – you can’t adjust the volume and there’s no such thing as Airplane mode. It’s the sobering shot of adrenaline that springs you into action when your 10-year-old is choking on a jawbreaker candy. It’s the bucket of ice water over your head that jolts you awake in the middle of night to let you know your toddler, who’s in the next room, has a spiking fever. It’s completely involuntary and at the flip of a switch, it can trigger superhuman strength or a number of pretty aggressive and downright crazy behaviors out of an otherwise perfectly sane woman. It can be an amazing (or terrifying) thing to witness and even more dramatic thing to feel.

Parents love knows no bounds

Drawing from our own fears and experiences, the mama bear in all of us is an empathic house in which we welcome the heartbreak & pain of another mother as our own. This open door policy is probably the most endearing and loving quality of a mother’s instinct as it often transcends our own children and is able to reach all children in need. This quality resonated with me when my biggest fear for my son recently came true for a family I’ve never met before. After hearing the story about Berkeley Fincher, a two and a half year old girl who was involved in a life-altering drowning accident in Austin, Texas, I felt her mama’s pain and grieved for her child as if she were my own. I felt compelled to share this story not only because it hit close to home for me personally, but also because it made me realize how easily accidents can happen no matter how hard we strive to keep our children safe.

Berk’s accident happened over New Year’s weekend at her family’s farm just outside of Austin; the toddler had fallen into the pool where she was found unconscious. Berk was resuscitated twice while being Life Flighted to a hospital in Austin where her heart was stabilized. Over the next several days, her organs started to recover and respond. Donnie & Shelley Fincher, Berk’s parents, were devastated by doctor’s warnings that IF their precious daughter did in fact make it to her third birthday, she would never walk, never talk, never eat and never breathe on her own again. But this sweet little miracle defied them all in BIG ways! Over the course of the next 40 days, Berk turned three years old and her neurological improvement steadily increased one small victory at a time. Donnie and Shelley were blessed with the gift of seeing their daughter smile again and hearing her laughter while Berk continued to fight with all her might and superpowers (she loves Batman) to heal herself.

NOLA bound

Berk’s big personality shines through more each day giving the Finchers hope as they embark on the next chapter in their baby girl’s journey to recovery – which is far from over and now even farther from their Texas home. While searching for the best possible care for their daughter, Shelley and Donnie came across Dr. Paul Harch, Clinical Professor and Director of Hyperbaric Medicine at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine. Dr. Harch specializes in Hyperbaric (HBOT) therapy, a low-risk medical treatment that can reverse the brain damage caused by drowning. There are HBOT facilities all over the US, but Dr. Harch, having remarkable experience treating and recovering another toddler involved in a similar accident in July of 2017, is without a doubt the best in the country.

The Finchers made their way from Texas to NOLA the weekend following Valentine’s Day as soon as Berk was cleared to travel after a flu diagnosis. They are staying in a friend’s condo throughout the 10-week treatment while their other children are with family back in Texas. A few days after arriving to the Crescent City, Berk ended up in the ER severely dehydrated with Flu B & acute pneumonia. The HBOT treatments will remain on hold until her health issues clear up and she’s discharged from the Children’s Hospital.

Berk’s Blessings

Shelley has been using Facebook to document Berk’s journey every step of the way. Last Thursday she wrote, “Coming to NOLA allowed us to realize how difficult and hard Berk’s recovery care is going to be. We will definitely need to hire a registered nurse (if you know anyone, please reach out). Now I know that I can’t do it alone.”

The power of social media has created a united army of strangers and mama bears alike, who are committed to helping support the Finchers. As Donnie and Shelley’s prayers continue to be answered, they are extremely grateful for the immense outpour of love and generosity. On behalf of Berk’s Army, we ask you to please keep this little love in your thoughts and prayers and welcome the Finchers to your city with open arms during Berk’s recovery therapy in Louisiana. 

Your support is greatly appreciated!

Please like and share Berk’s Blessings Facebook page.

If you would like to contribute to Berk’s recovery journey, there’s a wish list with supplies and necessities via Amazon here.

Monetary donations can be made to the family’s GoFundMe page.

About Jamie Johnson

Residing in Austin, Texas, Jamie is a single mother to an almost two year old boy, Liam. She has an Associate Degree in Marketing & Design and works full-time in the Renewable Energy industry. Her favorite past time activity is boating on Lake Austin with her family. Jamie and Liam enjoy playdates at the park, arts & crafts, and early morning snuggles. She is passionate about design and inspiring others. Jamie is also a gangster rap and Pinot Noir enthusiast – only indulging responsibly while child-free. Follow her on IG @jamiejohnson

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