Who Was Morgan Jayne?
In 1986, Fred Makowecki and his wife were told they wouldn’t be able to have children, news which brought them to the desk of Valerie Nelson, who, at the time, served as the Head of Private Adoption Society of Alberta. Just one year later, with Valerie’s help, they were holding their newborn adopted daughter they named Morgan Jayne Makowecki.
On May 4, 2006, after a short illness, Morgan passed away suddenly and unexpectedly of sudden liver failure. She was just 18 years old. In his wave of shock and grief, after some searching and phone calls, Fred managed to reach Valerie. He told that the incredible gift Valerie had given him was gone. Valerie was now worlds away from where she had once facilitated adoptions in Canada. She had been asked to go to Honduras to help at an orphanage – and once she saw the horror that was there – she couldn’t leave.
Over phone and email, she and Fred slowly picked up their friendship. She told Fred all about her work on the small Caribbean Bay island of Roatán, which has the second highest occurrence of HIV and AIDS in the Western Hemisphere and the mortality rate of babies born to HIV positive mothers was 80%. She told him that she desperately needed formula. She said that if the mothers would stop breastfeeding and receive education and medications during pregnancy, the chances of the baby’s developing HIV would decline, but Roatán was impoverished. These mothers lived in slums and formula was a luxury entirely out of reach.
Lost in his own world, Fred was grieving. It was when he read a book on grief called “When the Bough Breaks: Forever After the Death of a Son or Daughter,” he experienced an epiphany. The book said that parents who have lost a child have two choices: lose themselves to grief, or replace the grief with something meaningful. He called Valerie and they talked about the work she was doing in the Caribbean. He said he wanted to raise the money to help these babies. She contacted him a short time later to tell him her work now had a name: The Morgan Jayne Project.
Fred immediately tapped into his network of friends, family and colleagues to help fund and organize Valerie’s work and set up a legal charity. For her part, Valerie became a scientist in her own little world on the Roatán. Although medications were available for children with HIV, the UN had no guidelines on the correct dosage for infants, so they just advised not to administer it to infants. Valerie learned the correct dosage. She knew that an HIV positive mother’s breast milk could transfer the disease to the baby and that new mothers needed to be educated. Moreover, with the proper care, there is a window that sees the virus die. And through her work, a combination of medication and eliminating breast milk, she and Fred saw babies born who tested HIV positive at birth, later test negative under the care of the organization she is the director of, Families Saludables. Fred took many trips to Roatán so he could hold the babies who once had been born with a death sentence, but now had a chance at life.
Fred knows that Morgan would love The Morgan Jayne Children’s Foundation. When she was in school he jokingly called her “the lawyer.” If she ever saw an injustice or someone was in need, she was there to help and ultimately, stand up for what’s right.