“I had to stop in and see Candy,” she said. “She’s a very special person.”
An avoidable tragedy
Grace McVicar was stillborn in 2001. It was Candy McVicar’s 33rd week of pregnancy, but she suspected a couple of weeks earlier that something was wrong because the baby’s movement curtailed dramatically. She went to see her obstetrician but was told not to worry about it.
“They sent me away, saying, ‘babies don’t move as much late in pregnancy,’ ” she said. “In fact, she needed an early delivery by C-section.”
Had that been done, Grace likely would have survived, McVicar said. She and her husband, Stephen, were devastated, but not vindictive. They decided against filing a malpractice lawsuit, but that didn’t mean that they weren’t going to take action.
“We wanted to change things through education,” Stephen McVicar said. “Instead of going through a long legal battle, we wanted to work with doctors, hospitals and parents so this wouldn’t happen to anyone else.”
Candy McVicar, who was running her own marketing business, closed that in order to launch the Missing GRACE Foundation to provide educational, bereavement and support materials.
She ran the organization out of her house. People found her by surfing the Internet or hearing about her from hospital social workers or other bereaved parents.
“It was all word of mouth,” she said of the organization’s growth.
In 2011, the foundation finally had the means to get an office. Candy, whose official title is executive director, runs the center on a day-to-day basis. Stephen, who has a full-time sales job, leads some of the peer counseling sessions — “Men grieve differently than women,” he said — produces educational videos, does the bookkeeping and, he added with a laugh, serves as janitor.
All of the services are offered on a sliding scale that starts at zero. “If people can pay, that’s great,” Candy McVicar said. “But if they can’t pay, that’s OK, too.”
Pass it on
Sandy Lowe, a retired teacher, volunteers to staff the phones two days a week. Whenever she works, sitting on the desk directly in front of her is a framed photograph of a granddaughter who lived only 10 days before succumbing to a genetic lung disorder.
“For me it was double grief,” she said. “My own daughter was suffering, but I also had lost a grandchild.”
After she and her daughter used the center’s services, “I felt that I should give back to the place that helped me heal,” she said. “Now I’m able to help other people who are struggling with a really difficult loss.”
Helping thousands of people a year is impressive, Candy McVicar will admit. But she does so grudgingly because she knows that she is only scratching the surface. According to the center’s website, there are 40,000 stillbirths in the United States each year. Combining stillbirths, miscarriages and other forms of infant losses, the number jumps to 1 million a year.
“I’d love to have these centers all over the country,” she said.
But lacking that, she wants to be able to do more with the center she has. In addition to needing more money — “All nonprofits need more money these days,” she said — she also needs more volunteers. She’d like to be able to keep the center open in the evenings and on weekends because, many times, just being there is the most valuable thing it has to offer.