Kate Bowen's youngest daughter Georgia is an ebullient toddler. "She is the happiest person I know, but the most strong-willed person I know," her mom says.
But Georgia, now 2, had an incredibly rough start. Soon after she was born on May 18, 2018, she suffered a rare cardiac arrest, followed by months of life-threatening complications, many days on a machine that pumped blood through her body and finally, at four months, a life-saving heart transplant. "We saw several miracles throughout," says Bowen, 38, of Duxbury, Mass. "And we're still seeing them."
Once Georgia recovered and was back home with her three older siblings, Bowen, a children's clothing designer and founder of the Petit Peony line, decided she wanted to help other families who young children were undergoing medical crises.
Working with Boston Children's Hospital staffers and parents of hospitalized kids, Bowen created a unique and comfy hospital onesie for babies she called the Georgie. The gown enables doctors and nurses to maneuver the tubes and drains of their tiny patients, and is now used by Boston Children's Hospital and others nationwide. "I just want to humanize these kids," says Bowen.
In early 2020, Bowen broadened her business due to the pandemic. After a medical director at Boston Children's told Bowen about the need for 1 million masks, Bowen quickly tapped the supply chain she used to create her kids' clothing line to produce the much needed masks.
The overwhelming need for other types of PPE, including gowns, led to more sales and eventually Bowen's creation in May of GCB Medical Supply, which now services about 150 hospitals nationwide.
By the end of the year, Bowen had launched the Georgia Claire Bowen Foundation. She donated 3% of the company's profits — $1 million — to pediatric heart research at Boston Children's Hospital. Bowen plans on donating $1 million annually for as long as she can.
The initial $1 million grant established the Georgia Claire Bowen IMPACT (Imagining More Possibilities in Advanced Cardiac Therapies) Initiative at Boston Children's, which will support cutting-edge treatments.
"I think many families in that circumstance would kind of go to their darkest possible spots," says Christina VanderPluym, MD, a pediatric cardiologist at Children's Hospital and Georgia's doctor. "They turned that tragedy into some positive opportunities, not just for Georgia, but for kids across the country. And while their child was lucky enough to survive and ultimately get a transplant, she still has a very long medical journey that Boston Children's and all of us are involved with."
Georgia's continuing medical journey includes the possibility that her body could one day reject the heart as she grows up.
"Georgia's life depends on innovation," says Bowen, who has been living with her family on a farm in Warren, Vermont, since the pandemic struck. She says she is funding artificial-heart research and has helped with the creation of a portable ultrasound wand, which she uses to send pictures of Georgia's heart to her doctors.
"I'm not okay with sitting back and hoping people come up with answers for my daughter," says Bowen. "I need to play an active role in advancing this field and making sure she outlives me. She's going to change the world."
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