Donor Spotlight: Grateful for saving her daughter's life

A portrait of Mardee and Jaime Jessop with Dr. SemnaniMardee Jessop, Jaimee Jessop, and Dr. Hooshang Semnani at Festival of Trees 2012

(August 2018) — Ten years ago, Mardee Jessop was working as a real estate agent, never imagining she would one day support and work in health care. But when her daughter survived a near-death accident thanks to compassionate staff at Dignity Health’s Northridge Hospital Medical Center in Northridge, Calif., everything changed.

It was the first beautiful spring day after a cold spell, and Mardee had promised her kids a trip to the park. Before they left, her 3-year-old daughter, Jaimee, headed outside to play while she waited for her siblings. Minutes later, Mardee’s son Ben, let out a scream that will forever be imprinted on Mardee’s memory. She ran outside and found Jaimee turning blue and unable to breathe — the boisterous little girl accidentally clipped the family dog’s collar around the playset and her neck, asphyxiating her, and sending her into cardiac arrest.

Mardee administered CPR before rushing to the nearest ER, where doctors informed her Jaimee needed to be airlifted to the nearest pediatric trauma center, yet hospital after hospital turned down the transfer request, unwilling to be held liable if Jaimee died in flight. With the minutes ticking by, Jaimee had less than 1 percent chance of survival when Dr. Hooshang Semnani of Northridge Hospital agreed to take the transfer. Jaimee was airlifted to Northridge Hospital, where physicians saved her life.

Little by little, Jaimee began to recover. After five weeks, she was released from the hospital. Slowly but surely Jaimee went from a hospital bed to a wheelchair then leg braces to walking on her own. Her vision returned after six months, and within the first year, she could eat on her own again, too.

A Christmas tree, decorated with white lights, tulle, and dove ornamentsA Festival of Trees holiday tree to be auctioned in order to raise funds for Northridge Hospital Foundation

Throughout this experience, Mardee had a deep need to show her gratitude and to thank the people at the hospital who saved her daughter’s life.

In her pursuit to say thank you, Mardee began volunteering for Northridge Hospital Foundation, became a foundation board member, raised $75,000 for pediatric trauma, and is now an outreach specialist in the women and children’s service line at Northridge Hospital.

"They saved my kid, they get me for life. We were treated so well by the staff, and it’s because of them I started volunteering. I am so grateful to them and that is why I volunteered, became a board member, and am now an employee," says Mardee.

During her time as a volunteer and foundation board member, Mardee organized a fundraising event, the Festival of Trees, to raise awareness and funds for pediatric trauma. By auctioning off decorated holiday trees, gifts, and offering kid's activities at this family-friendly holiday event, Mardee raised $75,000 for the cause close to her heart and as a token of her appreciation.

"'Thank you' is never enough ... we were treated in such a kind and respectful manner, it was humankindness. They cheered us on throughout the whole thing. They laughed and cried with us, they were just like family. And we are so very thankful," says Mardee.

Jaimee recently turned 13, goes to school, reads and writes, has a great sense of humor, has crushes and loves Taylor Swift.