As a member of the Leadership Fayetteville committee, my friend Laura Kellams and I have planned “Social Services” Day for the past several years. This week, as I accompanied Leadership Fayetteville Class XXVIII on a tour of CEO (Cooperative Emergency Outreach), I heard long-time CEO Volunteer Linda Eichmann describe a core value/belief of the organization. Linda described how, 13 years ago when she began volunteering, she was nervous that she might “make a mistake” by giving a family in need too much or too little assistance. She was told right away that if she ever did make a mistake to be sure and “err on the side of grace.”
Meanwhile, I’m checking in via text message with Gracie who is at Arkansas State University. She had discovered what looked like mold on her air vents the day before and had submitted a work order to have it looked at. (She and her roommate have both been sick for several weeks with what we thought were allergy-like symptoms. I had assumed it was seasonal allergies, but now we were thinking it might be something in the ventilation system.) The repairman/custodian had been in the room and sprayed the vent with something similar to Lysol and stated “this is supposed to kill mold.” Gracie placed a call to the Health Department and I called ASU Facilities Management, learned that they aren’t responsible for the dormitories, so I left a message with the Director of Residence Life.
When I called my folks to tell them about the situation, they decided to hop in the car for a quick (ha! it is a 4.5 drive) trip to Jonesboro to see Gracie and see the Director of Residence Life in person!
After hanging up with my parents, I mentally flipped through my calendar for the rest of the afternoon and Friday. There wasn’t anything that couldn’t be cancelled or rescheduled. Did Gracie NEED me? Maybe not. Do I have LOTS going on at work? Definitely. But I haven’t seen Gracie in a month (in 18 years of being a MOM, this is by the far the longest I’ve been apart from any of my kiddos). Yep, I needed to go to Jonesboro too.
A few phone calls, a pair of pjs, and change of clothes and a toothbrush thrown in a bag and we were off.
While en route, Gracie texted us that the University had sent someone out to test air quality in her room. Meanwhile, her roommate Kayla had been diagnosed with severe bronchitis and was being sent to the hospital for a chest x-ray. Yep, this situation warranted a mama-vention.
We arrived by about 6:30 p.m. and drove to campus. I pointed out Gracie’s dormitory and the Union and we checked into a hotel. We went to dinner (the FANTASTIC Lazarri’s – which warrants its own post and will be our must-stop restaurant on all future trips to Jonesboro!) while we waited for Gracie who was attending the Big Sis/Little Sis Reveal Party with her sorority. When Gracie finally joined us at the hotel, she coughed for about an hour before finally falling asleep.
It was a short night for everyone. Gracie had an early test. I was up early emailing the Director of Residence Life (who hadn’t returned my call from yesterday) and speaking to a reporter from KARK, the NBC affiliate in Little Rock. (Shout out to my friend Brook Thomas with KNWA for the hook up!) One way or another, I was going to get the attention of the University!
I placed two more calls to the Director of Residence life – who was in a meeting. I asked, and they assured me, that he was in a meeting regarding the mold issue at University Hall. We decided that we could sit around in the hotel and wait for a return call, or we could sit in the lobby of Residence Life and wait for Mr. Dixon. We opted for the latter.
As it turns out, when we arrived on campus Mr. Dixon was in his office and invited us right back. We had a good conversation and I felt assured that the University was taking the situation seriously and working to address the issue. Air samples had been taken and preliminary tests results would be back within 24 hours.
Now it was off to lunch and then to take Gracie to the doctor. We went to the student health center where we had EXCELLENT care from Victoria Williamson. She has seen 6-8 girls this week with similar symptoms and had reported this trend to administrators yesterday. She prescribed a Z-Pack, an inhaler, ran blood tests, and sent us for a chest x-ray.
We were in an out of the Imaging Center at St. Bernard’s within an hour and off to Walgreen’s to fill prescriptions.
We dropped Gracie off at the ZTA house (where the air quality is excellent!) to study and hang out. We had a quick tour of the house which is absolutely LOVELY. Despite our invitation to come home to NWA for the weekend, Gracie declined. She made arrangements to stay with a sorority sister for the rest of the weekend. She says she doesn’t feel sick when she’s not in her room – so we want her to stay out of her room as much as possible until we know what we are dealing with and what steps the University will be taking.
We don’t have all the answers yet, but I have been impressed with everyone I’ve encountered at A State and I believe that they will ensure the health and safety of the students there.
As for my “quick” trip to Jonesboro…. it was worth every second of it. I am so proud of Gracie and the way she has handled this situation. While many students are taking photos of their air vents and complaining on social media, Gracie took action. She submitted a work order, she called the Health Department, she notified us. In short – she acted like a grown up and advocated for herself. When her roommate was sent to the hospital, she went and sat with her in the waiting room. She allowed her momma and her grandma and papa to swoop in and try and take care of her, even as she was doing a pretty good job of that for herself. And then she posted this:
Yep. When in doubt, always err on the side of Grace.