When Beaufort Memorial Hospital (BMH) dedicated its newly renovated pediatrics waiting room earlier this month, standing front and center was former patient Meredith Inglis, the force of nature who spearheaded a fundraising campaign to pay for the improvements.
Now a sophomore at Emory University, the 20-year-old Bluffton native was 17 when she took it upon herself to transform the third-floor space into a fun, kid-friendly room.
"It's wild," Inglis said. "I had no idea it would come to fruition."
A Type 1 diabetic suffering from a rare liver disease, Inglis has been in and out of hospitals most of her teenage years. Her first hospital admission was at Beaufort Memorial where she underwent gallbladder surgery at age 15.
"I remember feeling scared," she said. "And everything was white."
She eventually ended up at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, where she was diagnosed with the chronic degenerative disease that causes severe intestinal pain, fatigue and bone density issues.
"Cincinnati is a huge hospital with a lot of cool, interactive features oriented to kids," Inglis said. "It's colorful and welcoming. Beaufort Memorial is so much smaller, but I thought we could do a lot for pediatric patients here."
To kick off her fundraising venture, she made a public appeal to the congregation at Bluffton United Methodist Church and created "Miracle Jars" where her fellow church members could drop donations.
Over the course of a year she collected $1,200 to purchase Pillow Pets for hospitalized children. She also enlisted art students at her school, Hilton Head Christian Academy, to paint ceiling tiles with a sea life motif to replace the standard white ones over pediatric hospital room beds.
Even as she was battling her own health issues, Inglis set her sights on the renovation of the pediatric waiting room. With $1,500 in hand from her church congregation, she approached Beaufort Memorial Hospital Foundation Associate Vice President and Chief Development Officer Deborah Schuchmann with her plan.
Inglis returned from college last spring with an additional $1,500 to put toward the project. Impressed by her determination, Schuchmann put her in touch with a couple of hospital vendors she could tap for funding.
Interior design firm McWaters donated new flooring and labor valued at $23,500; furniture manufacturer Steelcase gave her eight times the $3,000 she had collected, for a total of $24,000.
After meeting Inglis in person, the Steelcase representative increased his initial donation. Taken with her spunk, he offered to provide the same match if the hospital Foundation would provide an additional $3,000.
"He was excited to see a young person wanting to help other young people," Inglis said.
With donations from McWaters, Steelcase, Meredith's church and the Foundation, there was enough funding to renovate not only the pediatric waiting room but a first-floor reception area and two waiting rooms in the Keyserling Cancer Center.
"We appreciate Meredith's vision and how it inspired others to make these projects possible," Schuchmann said. "It's just amazing what she accomplished!"
Marie McAden is long-time Lowcountry resident and freelance writer.