Twelve years ago, Tom and Maureen Murray held their beautiful four-month-old daughter Maeve in their arms and said goodbye. Maeve was born with pulmonary atresia and a serious ventricular septal defect that required surgery. The Murrays' experience with the University of Michigan Congenital Heart Center, where Maeve received her medical treatment, inspired them to help other congenital heart patients.
Enjoying the Simple Moments
When the Murrays discuss Maeve's short life, they focus on the positive. Unlike many babies with life-threatening conditions, Maeve wasn't hospitalized for long periods of time. The Murrays are grateful for the quality time they spent with their daughter during her four months of life. They have a special appreciation for the simple moments that are so easy to take for granted, and they are very compassionate towards the families who have critically ill children.
Maeve was born at another hospital, but when the Murrays learned about the extraordinary reputation of Edward Bove, M.D., director, division of pediatric cardiovascular surgery, they brought Maeve to the University of Michigan Congenital Heart Center. "We felt like he would be the best hope," says Maureen. After meeting him, the Murrays remember immediately feeling great trust in him. Tom says, "We knew he would do everything he possibly could (for Maeve)."
Tom says, "We think the people working here at U-M are amazing. It is not just a job for them. They are so dedicated and so compassionate." The Murrays say the caring and commitment was shown by everyone. "Everybody was very kind. That was true of everyone we dealt with for X-rays, CAT scans, anesthesiology all the departments we dealt with."
The Murrays also were grateful that they had a place like U-M close to their home in Plymouth, Michigan. The experience of being the mother of a critically ill child has made Maureen especially sympathetic to the families who have to travel great distances for care.
Soon after Maeve passed away in July 1993, the Murrays' family and friends expressed interest in doing something in her memory. From that interest, the Maeve Murray Memorial Fund golf outing was started. The event is held annually, usually the weekend after Labor Day. The success of the golf outing has helped the Murrays donate hundreds of thousands of dollars to help patients and families.
In the Business of Helping Other Families
The Murrays have also used their business, Conor O'Neill's, to raise money for the U-M Congenital Heart Center. In 1998, the Murrays helped open Conor O'Neill's on Main Street in Ann Arbor. Tom says that when the pub opened, one of the goals for the restaurant was to be a participant in the community. Now, seven years later, Conor O'Neills is an Ann Arbor fixture known for its food, atmosphere, music, and hospitality.
The staff at the pub have come up with many creative ways to help patients and families. In February, the restaurant is decorated with hearts, each in honor of a donation, and every March is celebrated with the Shamrocks and Shenanigans Run held on St. Patrick's Day Weekend. The next run is March 12, 2006.
The Murrays have also helped by donating gift certificates allowing families to visit the pub for a free meal. They understand the great need to help families who come from all over the world for life-saving surgeries. The Murrays remember well how their world was turned upside down with the news that their baby daughter was critically ill. "You dont understand how many aspects of your life change," Maureen says.
More than most people, the Murrays have a deep appreciation for the quiet moments of life. Maureen fondly remembers an afternoon when she was walking with Maeve in her stroller to pick up Maeve's older brother from school. Maureen's advice to other parents is to enjoy the special moments in the "normal, chaotic days everybody goes through."