Tom and Kate Mallery were told when their daughter Ana Cru was born that she had suffered brain damage while in the womb, and that it did not look promising.
Still, the couple held out hope for the little girl with the sweetheart mouth and tuft of brown hair. After Ana underwent numerous unsuccesful medical treatments, the family moved from their home in Somerville, Somerset County, N.J., to West Philadelphia to be near Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Kate lived almost day and night at CHOP.
“They recommended she (Ana) come home on hospice,” Tom Mallery said. “She passed in my arms on February 17.” Ana was 11-months-old.
Now, the couple say they are on a mission to help others in similar situations. They are raising funds through a variety of ways, mostly social media, to take a cross-country trek to collect unused medical supplies and help distribute them to other families with special needs children.
Mallery, 31, said he and his wife got the idea for their “Project Sloopy” shortly after their daughter died. The couple had boxes and boxes of unused supplies. But the hospitals refused to take them back, saying all supplies are deemed unsanitary once left in a home - even if they are unused and in original sealed packaging.
The Mallerys thought this was a waste, not to mention a constant reminder of their ordeal. Most parents in the same situation, they say, are forced to toss the supplies in the regular trash.
The first medical supplies started collecting unused almost as soon as Ana was born March 13, 2012. Ana was unable to move on her own, and the couple never received a clear explanation of what caused her condition. She lived on oxygen. She ate through a tube to her stomach.
Ana was born at a New Jersey hospital and received many failed treatments in various medical facilities. Tom Mallery worked for his family’s construction company. He soon took leave to dedicate himself full-time to Ana’s condition, as did his wife.
Ana began to improve once they couple moved her to CHOP. There, a neurologist showed them through MRI scans how an obstructed blood flow had damaged Ana’s brain during the last month of pregnancy. The couple felt CHOP offered the best hope and they moved to N. Sloan St. in West Philadelphia.
However, Ana's situation remained dire. She was taken home and put on hospice for the last six months of her life. She passed away as Tom held her as Kate sang. Tom used to sing “Hang on Sloopy” to his daughter as encouragement when she was in the neonatal intensive care unit.
That’s how he came up with the name Project Sloopy. The couple say they are working with Advocates for World Health to distribute the supplies. Advocates for World Health is a nonprofit that recovers and redistributes medical product.
They hope to raise enough funds for the trip by May 19 and to leave in early June. Already, they’ve collected from more than 20 families donating their unused supplies.
The couple wrote on their website for Project Sloopy: “This idea has evolved into a passion, one that we would never have conceived of if not for our experiences with our daughter Ana Cru; she has enriched our existence and inspired us beyond comprehension – to live at our maximum potential, to help those in need, and to share our strength and determination with people in similar situations.”