Family Finds Hope amid Tragedy after Near Death of Infant
While going through the worst tragedy of their lives, one family found hope – thanks in part to a group of young women who took the opportunity to grow a pay it forward donation into something much bigger.
Sarah Nupdal, VP/legal counsel, banking
Finley Campion and family
Hearts raced. Time stopped. And Ashley Campion’s worst nightmare unfolded before her on November 6, 2018. Picking up her daughter from daycare in Williston, N.D., Ashley found 10-week-old Finley Marie unresponsive.
“I immediately knew something was wrong,” Finley’s mother explains. “She couldn’t hold up her head; her limbs were hanging limp, and she wasn’t waking up like she normally would after a nap.”
Rushing their daughter to the emergency room, Ashley and her husband, Mike, laid Finley down on the hospital table just as she started seizing.
“From that point, it seemed like all team members in the ER were working on Finley while Mike and I just stood there in shock,” Ashley says.
Before they knew it, doctors flew Finley to Bismarck. First thought to be virus-induced, the severity of Finley’s injuries weren’t discovered until days later. Needing a pediatric neurologist, Finley was then sent to the Children’s Critical Care Unit in Sioux Falls, S.D., where doctors finally revealed the full extent of her injuries: retinal hemorrhages in both eyes, bone and skull fractures, a broken arm, ligament strains, and brain injuries caused by lack of oxygen.
Doctors were unsure if Finley would ever see, hear or walk.
That was just the beginning of the Campions’ medical journey. They also had to relocate to Fargo for Finley’s on-going care and rehabilitation while in the midst of renovating their 1905 Victorian home in Williston. Instead of slowly finishing the renovations themselves, they had to hire contractors to do the work and ended up paying dual mortgages for 3 months.
“Many people think it’s the medical bills that were the hardest,” Ashley says. “The real struggle for us came from trying to relocate and the regular travel expenses from follow-up appointments in Sioux Falls.”
Finley’s aunt, Shauna Erickson, was part of United Way of Cass Clay’s 2019 35 Under 35 Women’s Leadership Program. When the women had a chance to support a cause they care about, she immediately shared Finley’s story.
“I think the whole room felt the heaviness and shared a desire to make a difference in Finley’s life,” says Sarah Nupdal, Bell Bank VP/legal counsel and 35 Under 35 participant.
Each year, Bell’s CEO and president Michael Solberg speaks to the class about philanthropy. This year, he gave the class $1,000 to pay it forward, and they surprised the Campion family with a check at the program graduation.
“We were shocked,” Ashley explains. “I remember them saying Finley’s name, and the rest is kind of a blur. I bawled, of course. We felt an immense amount of gratitude.”
But the 35 women didn’t stop there.
“It just felt like we weren’t finished,” Sarah says. “I felt a tug to do more.”
The group partnered with Lend A Hand Up to host a benefit for the Campion family – just a few days short of Finley’s first birthday. From decorating, to putting together a slideshow, coordinating speakers and promoting the event, the women pooled their talents and resources to pull off an event that drew more than 250 attendees and raised more than $30,000.
“This is what being a part of this type of program is about – coming together to support a cause bigger than us,” Sarah remarks. “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
Although much of Finley’s prognosis is still unknown, she is now able to see, hear and has started crawling.
“I hope Finley gets the normalcy she deserves. I hope she’s able to make friends, play sports, run on the playground, climb trees, make mistakes, have a boyfriend, get married, hold a job, and have babies of her own,” Ashley says. “It’s always hard to admit you could use a little help – especially because both Mike and I have good, stable jobs and supportive families. But the donations from Bell Bank have been instrumental in helping us stabilize.”
Sarah and her 34 classmates feel grateful to have played a small role in Finley’s recovery.
“I know there will be continued struggles and tough times for Finley and her family, but my hope is they can look back with a full heart,” Sarah says. “I hope they always remember they’re not alone and so many others are fighting alongside them. Although this situation was absolutely terrible, it brought forth so much compassion.”
As the Campion family continues to move forward, they’ve expanded into a family of four and love watching Finley in her new role as big sister to Bridger Michael who was born on August 19.