It is truly amazing to step back and think about how much all our lives have changed since March. Like many of you, we’ve had a lot of beautiful family moments mixed with plenty of not-so-beautiful ones during this global pandemic. We’ve been stretched and pulled to capacity, trying to adjust and make decisions that will keep our kids – including our youngest who is a two-year-old heart transplant survivor - both safe and sane. It is a seemingly impossible line to walk and the goalposts keep moving. But to me the silver lining of 2020 is that it’s forcing all of us to step back and figure out what’s important.
For our family, that included two life-changing decisions.
1. We moved to a farm in Vermont for flu season so our three oldest kids could attend a small, Catholic school in-person.
2. My husband Ryan and I quit our day jobs to start a medical supply company. That company - GCB Medical Supply - is now supporting our highest mission as a family which is to improve the quality and longevity of heart transplant recipients and patients facing end-stage heart failure.
Back in April, I was asked a simple question at the end of a phone call with Dave Walsh, who is head of the supply chain at Boston Children’s Hospital. We had just gone over some final details on the first shipment of The Georgie.
I remember feeling really excited that everything was finally coming together and then right before we hung up Dave said, “Oh by the way, you don’t happen to have access to any procedural loop masks do you? I could use about a million.”
After a pause, for some reason I said yes...let me get back to you. I then hung up the phone and my excitement about The Georgie quickly evaporated into full panic about how I was going to come up with one million procedural loop masks out of thin air. In looking back, I think the only thing I realized in that moment was how dire the PPE shortage must have been. And if the hospital that saved my daughter’s life was asking me for help, then I was going to do everything in my power to get them what they needed.
So I stayed up all night for about two straight weeks trying to get the dots to connect. Eventually a swimwear factory in Asia that I had a relationship with through Petit Peony said they could help us. A few weeks after that conversation with Dave Walsh, we managed to deliver one million procedural loop masks to Boston Children’s Hospital. It felt like a major win, but at that point my eyes had been fully opened to how catastrophically broken our country’s PPE supply chain was.
After that initial order, Dave asked if I could help him find additional products. Things started to fall in place, and here we are seven months later. I’m so proud of the INCREDIBLE team we’ve built at GCB Medical that is now allowing us to source more than a dozen critical PPE products to 150 health systems and hospitals throughout the U.S.
To be perfectly honest, at times this is all still kind of hard for me to process. As a little girl I certainly never dreamed of owning a PPE supply company during a global pandemic. But in the end, this all comes back to Georgia.
For the last two and a half years, I’ve witnessed her unwavering perseverance to beat every odd. Georgia has paved the way for change and innovation since the day she was born and she’s given our family strength to know that absolutely anything we put our minds to is achievable. In addition to igniting groundbreaking heart transplant research and inspiring innovation in pediatric products, her fight is now helping spark a revolution in the medical supply industry.
As I mentioned earlier, our guiding mission as a family is to improve lives and outcomes for heart transplant recipients like Georgia. Our motivation to grow GCB Medical Supply is fueled by our desire to fund critical pediatric heart research AND help protect front line workers with clinically preferred PPE from a reliable supply chain. This month, GCB Medical Supply donated one million dollars to Boston Children’s Hospital to launch the Georgia Claire Bowen Foundation. Going forward, 10 percent of all GCB Medical Supply’s profits will fund the pediatric heart research that we know is going to change lives.
In the end, the 14 years I spent working in the medical device industry coupled with the experience I gained launching a children's clothing company gave me the tools and relationships necessary to help source procedural loops masks in a moment of crisis. But it was our family’s passion for the incredible people at Boston Children’s hospital combined with the example of grit set by our little peach that is going to allow us to make real, lasting change.
Finally, I just want to say an extra special thank you to WCVB’s Erika Tarantal. I sat down with her last week to talk publicly for the first time about GCB Medical Supply and the GCB IMPACT Initiative. If you missed the story, you can check it out here!
The outpour of love and support from our family, friends and the entire Petit Peony community has always given me so much strength. It feels wonderful to finally be sharing our latest Bowen endeavor, as you are all a critical part of our journey!