The grim news we are hearing daily about the COVID-19 pandemic has brought back painful memories for Audrey Leishman.
Five years ago, she was in a Virginia Beach, Virginia, hospital fighting for her life. In addition to sepsis and toxic shock syndrome, she had acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), the same thing that has proven so deadly to countless coronavirus patients across the world.
“ARDS is the worst thing I have ever gone through,” she said recently. “It felt like I was drowning.”
“It was the worst time of her life,” Audrey’s husband Marc echoed. “It was the worst time in my life, too. I didn’t even have it.”
Like so many of the COVID-19 patients with ARDS, Audrey was put on a ventilator for five days. The doctors told Marc that his wife had just a 5 percent chance of survival, and the couple said they loved each other for what might have been one last time.
But Audrey fought. So did her doctors and nurses.
And they saved her life.
So, when the COVID-19 pandemic began invading the United States, Audrey and Marc, the five-time PGA TOUR champion, knew what they wanted to do. They wanted to find a way to help the emergency room and ICU staffs in hospitals near their Virginia Beach home who were on the front lines every day.
“With our personal experience of me getting sick, we realized how hard these doctors, nurses, the support staff, respiratory therapists, how hard they all work to keep patients alive,” Audrey explained. “I wouldn’t be here without them, and so we wanted to support them.”
But how? Audrey texted the pulmonologist who she says saved her life, as well as one of the physician’s assistants on her case. She also contacted some of her friends who are nurses. What did they need? How could the Leishman’s aptly named Begin Again Foundation make a difference?
While the lack of personal protective equipment for healthcare workers is, she said, “literally keeping me awake at night,” she knew that was too vast a problem to tackle. Other friends simply told her to pray for them. Her response? “Absolutely, but I want to do more than that.”
Someone mentioned that restaurants were afraid to deliver food to the hospitals, and suddenly the Leishmans had an idea. They have lots of friends in the hospitality industry, people who have donated food and other services for the Begin Again Foundation’s celebrity golf classic over the last four years.
With restaurants closed to in-house dining and able only to offer takeout in these days of stay-at-home orders and social distancing, those businesses were suffering, too. Why not help them by buying meals that might allow the owners to pay employees for a little bit longer, then having them delivered to different hospitals? Read more from PGA TOUR.com