Beyond the Call of Beauty: Lyndsey McDonnough’s Gift of Giving
The heart of this jolly season is giving. And if there's anyone who can find the joy in giving, it's Lyndsey McDonnough. This week's Beyond the Call of Beauty shines the spotlight on a woman who has made it her lifelong mission to help those so desperately in need of care.
Founder and managing director of Market Me Consulting Limited, McDonnough is the gift that keeps on giving. She's a rising star of the public-relations field, but many persons don't know about the humanitarian work she does behind the scenes.
"I think I've always wanted to help others, and I think I've helped others in small ways," McDonnough told Outlook recently. She attributes her love for giving back to her mother, who insisted, at an early age, that her daughters perform their holiday duty of helping others at the Maxfield Park Children's Home.
"One of my first memories of moving back to Jamaica is that my mother took us to the Maxfield Park Children's Home. Because my mother was a firm believer of giving back, every Christmas, we would pack up things to give away, and my mother would take us to the children's home and play. The children would, in turn, come to our house to play, so much so that one child actually stayed with us and grew up with us - I have an adopted sister. Then my uncle told me that every time I got money, I used to give it away to homeless people on the street. That was something I would always do," she said.
This path of kindness took her through high school and even college in Boston, where she often did work with charities. She did not, however, think she was doing enough. She wanted to do more. As she got older, she found herself in a greater position to give back, pooling her resources for the sake of helping out as best as she could. Last year, she brought 10 children home with her to give them the Christmas experience, cooking dinner for them.
Slowly but surely, she realised that her real passion was in giving, especially to children. She wanted to help those who didn't have or may not have access to things they need.
"I was working with the Ministry of Health and I asked the minister of health, Dr Christopher Tufton, if I could go with him on his next visit to the Bustamante Children's Hospital. I wanted to know what was going on there so I could find ways to give back."
McDonnough accompanied the minister on a tour of the hospital, standing on the sidelines to learn how she could best be of help. When she returned home, she spoke with her neighbour, who is a doctor. Her neighbour asked her if she had met a boy by the name of Kenrick Bogle when she visited the hospital. McDonnough had not met the boy. The neighbour went on to explain to McDonnough that Kenrick was four years old and needed help. She described him to McDonnough, who became interested in meeting the boy. She told Tufton about Kenrick and they went for a second visit.
"When I went in there and saw him for the first time, he looked like Elliot, my nephew and 'pseudo son', whom I love to death," she said, fighting back tears. "You could see the attachment with all the doctors and nurses because he had been in there for so long," McDonnough added.
Kenrick needed to correct the connection between his oesophagus and trachea through surgery, and McDonnough was going to do everything within her power to help him. "I spoke to my roommate in college; her father was a doctor, and he told me about missions. I got in contact with a mission doctor who told me about SickKids in Canada. I reached out, and they decided to help."
SickKids negotiated a discount and McDonnough set up a GoFundMe account to raise the rest of the money needed to pay for the surgery. People constantly asked McDonnough: 'Why this one child? Why him?' Her response: "Kenrick had been in ICU for so long that other children weren't given the opportunity to get that bed. So, if I can change his life for the better, other children can get the medical assistance they need, too. Helping one can help all."
It took over a year to raise the funds, but she did it.
"Seeing him go on to the plane, I was like 'wow, this is really happening.' I knew the surgery was risky, but we were hopeful."
When she learnt that all went well with Kenrick's surgery, McDonnough was elated. She got even greater joy from seeing the physical progress the surgery brought; seeing him walk outside; seeing him clap for the first time.
McDonnough was thrilled to see Kenrick return home.
"He couldn't breathe or eat on his own before. The surgery was successful in that his windpipe has now been fixed and his stomach has now been attached, so everything is now normal. He's back at Bustamante Children's Hospital, and he's still on a breathing machine to build him up to breathe on his own, because he has never breathed on his own.
"He now needs to learn how to eat because he has never swallowed before. So, it's a work in progress. He's really a newborn kid at five years old. He has to get occupational and speech therapy, as well as physiotherapy, so he can learn how to walk and talk, so there's more work to be done, but it can be done, and he'll be able to recover. We're happy that he is now being given the opportunity to live his life to the fullest," McDonnough said.