After the loss of their son, Lauren and Wesley Clay welcomed a healthy baby daughter, Reed.
After the loss of their son, Lauren and Wesley Clay welcomed a healthy baby daughter, Reed.
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The Clay Family

Lauren and Wesley Clay’s son, John Pearson, spent his entire life in the pediatric intensive care unit at Children’s of Mississippi.

John Pearson was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a condition in which the left two chambers of his heart failed to develop in the womb. With their fragile son under around-the-clock care, Lauren and Wesley virtually lived in the PICU, spending every moment possible by their baby’s side.

“Living in the hospital became our normal,” says Lauren. “I stood by John Pearson’s side and talked to him. I could see him react to me and to Wesley and to the sound of our voices. He knew we were there. We couldn’t feed him and we couldn’t hold him, but we could be there. This was the way we could take care of our son.”

Over their long months at Children’s, the Clays became close friends with the doctors and nurses who cared for their son.

“They loved John Pearson like he was their own family,” Lauren says. “John Pearson was a person to them, not a just a patient. They loved us, too. That’s something I’ll never forget.”

John Pearson lived for just five months, but the Clays managed to make sweet memories of their baby boy that will last for their lifetimes.

“On Christmas Day, Dr. Barr [Children’s chair of pediatrics] came to the PICU dressed as Santa Claus,” Lauren recalls. “His wife was Mrs. Claus, and their children were elves. They passed out gifts to every child in the hospital. I had been expecting Christmas to be horrible, but instead it was one of the best days we ever had with our son, a little piece of normalcy in the middle of all that deep pain and sorrow. I never look back on that Christmas Day as sad. Instead, it was a piece of joy.”

Following John Pearson’s death, family and friends understandably assumed that Lauren and Wesley would prefer never to visit Children’s of Mississippi again, but the Clays reaction was just the opposite. Lauren and Wesley both found new careers connected to Children’s. Wesley left his position as the governor’s advisor on health policy to become the economic developer for the University of Mississippi Medical Center, a position that finds him charged with growing the medical center so that UMMC can continue to provide Mississippians, including children like John Pearson, with the best possible care. Lauren joined the development staff of Children’s of Mississippi, where she assists in raising awareness and financial resources for the hospital and the doctors and nurses she came to love.

“After John Pearson died, I called Children’s and said, ‘I need a place there,’” Lauren says. “I’m sure people were surprised that I wanted to come back to the hospital, much less come here to work every day. But Children’s of Mississippi was John Pearson’s home. It was the only home our son ever knew, and I just had to be a part of it.”