By Tamara Rubin
July 15, 2016
I so clearly remember that day – eight years ago, today. I was on the Today Show. We had filmed in May, when I was 7 months pregnant to air “at a later date.” Eight years ago, today I was in the hospital in labor with my youngest son. I was suffering from advanced-stage kidney failure – from undiagnosed preeclampsia – and my “fantasy natural, at-home-birth” rapidly turned into a nightmare hospital-birth, with five days of intense interventions.
In the hospital, my labor was not progressing because my body was failing, after trying to push out a baby for two weeks with no measurable results. My kidney failure was not diagnosed until – last-minute – I switched midwives, which, thank God, I had chosen to do. My new midwife (Dr. Edwin Hoffman Smith—a man who had attended hundreds of home births, and who I swear is the reincarnation of the angel, Fred Rogers!) did a full work up on me—and had me in the hospital within about 24 hours of taking me on as a patient [when my original midwife team – the Providence Hospital midwives – had sent me home with the cheery proclamation, “We’ll see you in two weeks!” (had I waited those two weeks I would literally be dead now)! Undiagnosed Preeclampsia is one of the most common causes of maternal and infant death in most third world countries. [Notably often likely linked to maternal lead exposure; read more here.]
…Back to the Today Show…
After what seemed like a couple of weeks in the hospital (in reality it was probably only about 36 hours) I asked the team to turn on the TV for me, so we could check out The Today Show, and see if the episode was finally airing (IT WAS; it turned out that today was THE DAY—July 15, 2008!)… we all watched the program (the midwives, my family, my family friends), and then, miraculously [and with a little help from a midwife who broke my water] baby Charlie Parker was born soon after. I like to imagine that he waited until that precise moment because he wanted to be the center of attention – and not have the lead poisoning conversation and an appearance on The Today Show distract anyone from his birth!
About an hour or so later (it seemed like it was immediately after he was born) I got a call from Washington, D.C.—it was a representative of the CDC calling me to see if I could come attend and present at the 2008 National Healthy Homes Conference about 8 weeks from then. I said… um… “I just had a baby…” (as in JUST had!) and I thought about it for a moment, and said to the lady who had called me, “can I bring my baby?” She said “Sure” and I said “Okay! See you in 8 weeks!”
Fast Forward a couple of years…
After a couple of years of having our family‘s personal lead-poisoning story represent “the face” of the issue of childhood lead poisoning (The Today Show, USA Today, Huffington Post, Syndicated news stories on every network and outlet imaginable), I really wanted to help bring other families’ stories to light, as I realized that the more families who tell their lead poisoning stories to the media, the bigger impact we will make together in shifting public perception and our societal understanding of the issue. It was out of this desire to connect other families and share their stories with the world that Lead Safe America Foundation was born.
Today – in 2016, you are no longer seeing “The Rubin Family Story” in every newspaper and news program (thankfully!); Lead Safe America Foundation has successfully achieved its goal of becoming a resource for journalists.
In the last six weeks, the foundation has been contacted and interviewed by dozens of journalists—journalists come to us when they want to connect with families of lead poisoned children; they come to us when they want ideas for angles on stories about lead and lead poisoning; they come to us when they want to connect with scientists. They describe the focus of the piece they are working on, and – behind the scenes – we help them build the case for the focus of their article or news piece. We have more than 515 members in our support group of parents of lead poisoned children, and many of them have stepped forward to share their stories with the media for various articles and pieces, large and small. We also partner with our sponsors, like LeadCare2 and CertifiedKit.com to get the news outlets connected with the latest science, hands on access to resources and direct access to experts to get journalists the most accurate information.
It is through behind the scenes collaborative efforts like these that articles like the recent Reuters piece have come about. We partnered with LeadCare2 and the journalist on that piece for a couple of months connecting them with families and information. In the end, they featured the story of one of the mamas in our support group – and we were so very proud of her for stepping forward (and the more than a dozen other parents in our group who volunteered to speak with the journalist and share their stories with the world.)
Each story shared with the media represents one more family who might feel “familiar” or resonate with/reach the hearts of hundreds (if not thousands) of families out there who read their stories… families who say “That’s like my story; their child has the same symptoms my child has—I should get my kid tested right away.”
Thanks to you, our readers, for supporting our work over all these years and for continuing to spread the word and share the stories we share.
As always we couldn’t do what we do (including help elevate the cause of lead poisoning on the national news media stage, helping to bring the cause into the living rooms of every person in our country) without your help. Please consider making a tax-deductible contribution in support of our work if you can.