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Standing in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Packard Children’s Hospital, Beth and Bob Shuman of Los Altos felt increasingly anxious. Their first and only child was fighting for her life after inhaling a potent mixture of meconium and amniotic fluid in utero. Several hours after Katie Jo’s birth, in 1999, doctors and nurses still were trying to get the sticky fecal material out of her lungs.

As the situation worsened, a physician approached the Shumans with a medical release form. Would it be okay if she gave Katie Jo an experimental drug—one that might help her tiny body break down the tar-like substance and expel it?

“Bob and I looked at each other,” Beth recalls, “and then we looked at the papers and said to the doctor, ‘We’re not going to read these. Would you give this to your baby?’ She replied, ‘Absolutely.’ So we just signed it and she ran. She gave Katie Jo the new medication, and it made all the difference.”

Katie Jo spent 13 days in the NICU at Packard Children’s, during which time staff and nurses “became family,” Beth recalls. “We didn’t realize until later how they got us through it. The kind of work they do is mind boggling, and the fact that it was a teaching hospital, in those circumstances, was a huge plus. You can’t have enough brains working together to treat your child. We just felt we had the best of the best available to us, 24 hours a day.”

Fortunately for the Shumans, Katie Jo has had no lingering effects whatsoever from her early NICU experience. Now 11, she’s an active sixth grader. Besides pitching for her school’s softball team, she loves basketball and soccer. She also has an artistic, entrepreneurial streak: One of her hobbies is designing and selling jewelry for good causes.

Her parents likewise have a soft spot for good causes, which is why the couple decided to support Packard Hospital with an annual Children’s Circle of Care gift. As Beth explains, “Katie Jo was our last gasp at having a child; I was 42, my husband and I both were on our second marriage. She truly is the joy of our lives. So when we sat down this year and thought about what philanthropies we wanted to support, I said, ‘You know, we wouldn’t even have this life but for the fact that they brought her back from the edge of that cliff.’ There are so many needs that it’s hard to know where you ought to be putting your dollars. But our hearts are with Packard Children’s Hospital.”