The story of Ruby June Cotter, the Wading River baby who needed a new heart, spread across Long Island and across the nation. Her story touched a lot of people — among them was Meaghan Howard of Aquebogue, another young mother so moved by Ruby June’s story, she knew she had to help.
“I felt so drawn to her immediately,” said Howard. “It just struck a chord with me, because I also have a baby named Ruby.”
Howard had learned about Ruby June on social media and reached out to the baby’s parents, Brian and Ashley Cotter, via Instagram. She shared social media posts about fundraising events for Ruby, and donated blood during a blood drive for her. But Howard knew she wanted to do more. She has organized a fundraiser to assist the baby’s parents with medical and living expenses. It’s taking place on Tuesday, Jan. 21 from 7 to 9 p.m. at Moustache Brewery in Riverhead.
Ruby June, now 7 months old, received her heart last month and is home with her parents.
Ruby June’s medical odyssey began she was just 13 weeks old. On Sept. 4, she became lethargic and had a low body temperature. Her parents brought her to Stony Brook University Hospital’s emergency room. She was later transferred to New York Presbyterian Hospital in New York City — a place Ruby and her parents would call “home” for the next three months.
Ruby June was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, a condition that causes a weakening of the heart and a reduced ability to pump blood. She had a state-of-the-art device called a Berlin Heart surgically implanted on Sept. 12 to assist the baby’s heart while she awaited a donor.
Christmas came early for the Cotters, when they got word that a donor heart had become available. Ruby had a heart transplant on Dec. 22. The surgery was a success and after a few weeks of monitoring, the Cotters took their little girl home on Jan. 7.
“In most ways it is absolutely incredible, but there is a lot of stress. In the hospital, in some ways, it was easier. My wife and I took care of her alongside the nurses,” said Cotter, a loadmaster with the 106h Rescue Wing. “Now we don’t have any nurses and she’s on a schedule for medicine, a schedule for eating, and it’s something we really have to stick to,” he said.
“She is doing amazing, but my wife and I are still trying to figure out who is doing what. My wife and I can get through half the day before we realize neither of us ate,” Cotter said.
He and his wife were at Ruby’s bedside throughout her hospital stay and couldn’t work. Friends created a GoFundMe page to help them out and so far has raised $110,025 and helped the Cotters with expenses.
Howard, a divorce and family law attorney and writer of the blog North Fork Momma, saw the need for further help.
“I knew I wanted to host a fundraiser for her and I really felt like this East End community, the North Fork and the South Fork, this community would come out and show up for her, because this family needs our help,” Howard said.
Caring for Ruby entails a host of extraordinary expenses, such as traveling to the city twice a week, in addition to medical expenses.
“You have co-pays for all of her prescriptions. You have co-pays for all her specialists, her physical therapy her speech and swallow,” Cotter said. “All of these other expenses are coming out of nowhere. Now we have to put gas in the car, and we have to go grocery shopping.”
And besides the extra costs, the couple still can’t work because they need to stay home to take care of Ruby.
Howard is coordinating next week’s fundraiser with the help of Kelly Briguccia of North Ford Doughnut Company and Lauri Spitz of Moustache Brewery.
Many local businesses have already donated to the fundraiser including: the venue and beer from Moustache Brewery, food from North Fork Doughnut Co. and Hamptons Haute, a photo-booth from Aw Snaps, live music by Tom Lovett, and raffle prizes of gift baskets and gift certificates from over 70 local businesses.
Tickets for the event are $25 per person or $45 per couplesand include one free beer. If attendants wear red they will receive one free raffle ticket. To purchase tickets, ask questions, or sponsor the event email Howard. People unable to attend the event, can still donate to the Cotters cause on GoFundMe.
“I thought this was a great way to help and give back, and raise awareness for her as well,” said Howard.
“The community has been behind us. They have been thinking of us and doing things for us. It makes us feel like we aren’t alone,” the baby’s father said.
“Someone we don’t even know is going out her way to help us and it’s incredible,” he said, referring to Howard. “I kind of thought that people, once we got home, would forget about us. Like, okay, the kid got her heart and they’re home and good. It’s really nice that people haven’t forgotten the fight isn’t over.”
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