40 From Our 40: Lee Murphy

To say 1984 was a bittersweet year for Dave and Lee Murphy is an understatement. As they were happily awaiting the birth of their son Patrick, David’s sister-in-law died in a car crash leaving behind two sons under the age of five who were about to spend a lot of time with their aunt and uncle in Fort Wayne.

Lee Murphy and Baby Patrick

Lee and Patrick.

Patrick was born in late December on the day of David’s parents’ 42nd wedding anniversary. An hour later, David’s father, Jack Murphy, died after a long-drawn-out battle with colon cancer.

In January, baby Patrick began having difficulty breathing and developed a severe, barking cough. He was admitted to Parkview Hospital in Fort Wayne, Indiana, but transferred to Riley Children’s Health on Valentine’s Day. One night at Riley, Lee found herself sleeping in the unlikeliest of places. A closet in the waiting room looked like her only opportunity for a bit of privacy and rest. However, the waiting room was soon host to another family grieving the loss of their daughter, and Lee found herself in the middle of the emotional tumult. It painted a raw picture of families’ very real need for privacy, care and comfort in a hospital setting.

Physically exhausted and emotionally devastated, Lee was grateful when Patrick was diagnosed with having abnormally formed blood vessels that could be corrected with surgery. A room at the House gave her a much-needed escape from the stresses of the hospital ward.

“Riley Children’s saved Patrick’s life, but the Ronald McDonald House saved mine,” she said.

Smiling children at the Three Rivers Parade

Raising support for the House at Ft. Wayne’s Three Rivers Parade.

Back in Fort Wayne, Lee and David quickly found ways to give back to the House. They developed a local fundraising chapter and raised money during the city’s Three Rivers Parade, and the entire family volunteered at the Central Indiana House one weekend a month. The family would stay at the House where Lee would serve as a weekend manager and David would shuttle families back and forth. Ten-year-old Erin would give tours to families or visitors.

Eventually, Lee returned to being a full-time special education teacher in Fort Wayne and the family spent less time at the House. Last year, Lee and her daughter Erin returned to volunteering at the newly opened Ronald McDonald Family Room in Riley Maternity Tower.

She offers the new families a listening ear and often gives advice she learned first-hand: “With all you have been through, the only way in your journey is up!”

By Meredith Smith

Heart & Hearth Summer 2022