In 2014, our family was pretty much perfect. We had two healthy boys, Ryan and Adam, Andy was entering his 11th season with the San Francisco 49ers, and we were overjoyed to have a long awaited prayer answered – we were expecting a baby girl to complete our growing family. At the end of football season, we moved back to our permanent home in Charlotte to settle in and prepare to welcome our daughter.
On January 27, 2015, we welcomed Madelyn Elizabeth into our family. Born at 37 weeks, she was immediately taken to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) in order to assist with her breathing due to the fluid she swallowed during delivery. To our great excitement, her health began to improve and we spent the next few days bonding and connecting with our baby girl. During her sixth day in the NICU, she became extremely ill with an infection that she tried her best to fight. As eternal optimists, we remained hopeful that her health would improve. We will never forget receiving the chilling middle of the night call on February 4th that changed our lives forever. Upon our arrival at the hospital, we were faced with our worst nightmare – our little girl had passed away.
Through our faith in God, the love of family, and the support of friends, we made it through our darkest days. In the summer of 2015, Andy was traded to the Cleveland Browns. Although we missed being a part of the 49ers family, this move signified a fresh start for us. While with the Browns, Andy changed his jersey number to 8 in honor of Madelyn’s eight short days of life. Our hearts are forever sealed to hers.
In the fall of 2016, Andy was traded to the Carolina Panthers and proudly wore the number 8 for Charlotte’s home team.
Unfortunately, many NICU families incur unexpected costs including funeral expenses, but not all of them have the necessary means to fulfill their financial obligations. In November of 2016, we launched Madelyn’s Fund in an effort to provide these families with the financial support that they so desperately need. On December 23, 2016 we helped our first family and through October 2017 we have provided financial assistance to 78 families, 19 of which were for funeral expenses.
We are humbled to honor our daughter’s memory through monies raised and support provided by Madelyn’s Fund.
-Rachel and Andy Lee