Episode 66

Published on:

7th Feb 2023

The Morgan Matthew Foundation with Melissa and Matt Theisen

In 2021, Melissa and Matthew Theisen of Slinger learned something that no expecting parents should ever have to hear. Their son, Morgan Matthew, was developing with a syndrome called, VACTERL association. This syndrome, affects multiple body systems—including the heart, vertebrae, limbs, the esophagus, and more (VACTERL is an acronym for the various systems).

While the caring and unbelievably talented nurses, doctors, and staff at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin did all they could to save Morgan, he eventually succumbed to his affliction, and passed away.

Through their loss, Melissa and Matt created the Morgan Matthew Foundation. The foundation is a 501(c)(3) that raises critical funds to advance research, care, & treatment for infants with complex medical conditions.

The Theisens join me on this week's episode to tell Morgan's story, talk about their experience at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, and tell us how the MMF is giving back to those who care for our most vulnerable kids.

Important dates:

Tuesday, April 11: "MMF Spirit Night" at Chick-Fil-A Menomonee Falls

  • 20% giveback to MMF from 4pm - 8pm
  • Merch sales, music, silent auction, and a photobooth

Saturday, June 10: 2nd Annual MMF Golf Outing

  • Ironwood Golf Course in Sussex, WI
  • Sign-up will be available later in February at morganmatthewfoundation.org

Also, February 7th through the 14th is CHD (congenital heart disease) Awareness Month.

Mentioned in this episode:

If you like the show, please consider subscribing at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or Google Podcasts.

New episodes on Tuesday.

Thanks for listening!

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Fuzz Martin 0:00

Well, well, well if it isn't my old friend, you, thank you for tuning in to Fifteen Minutes with Fuzz. My name is Fuzz Martin and this show is all about positive things going on in and around Washington County, Wisconsin.

Fuzz Martin 0:24

It's been a few weeks since my last episode completely due to my schedule. But I've got a bunch of new shows ready to go. So buckle up buttercup, CHD, or congenital heart defect Awareness Week takes place every year from February 7 through February 14. It's easy to remember the date because it all wraps up on Valentine's Day, which is known for that's right hearts. And the fact that today's episode is happening during CHD week is honestly a complete coincidence. But it all works out great. Melissa and Matt Theisen from the Morgan Matthew Foundation, join me today to tell you and me about their son, Morgan Matthew, the tragedy that they went through his parents, and the good that they are providing to other families through their loss. I will admit, you might get a little misty eyed during the show. I got goose bumps a few times during the recording session. And I think you're really going to enjoy this episode a lot. So with that, here are Melissa and Matt Theisen of The Morgan Matthew Foundation, right here on Fifteen Minutes with Fuzz.

Fuzz Martin 1:44

Melissa, and Matt, thank you for coming in and joining me today. Let's start Can you introduce our listeners to Morgan Matthew and who he was?

Melissa Theisen 1:53


Fuzz Martin 2:27

That's That's great. And I came into this asking, you know, I gave you a set of questions that I was going to ask and said, you know, talk about whatever you're comfortable with. And you had responded to me and said that this is a story that you you like to share or that you're comfortable sharing. So can you tell us a bit about what that disease was or whatever that or however you put it what that was?

Melissa Theisen 2:51


Fuzz Martin 4:46

Is VACTERL so it's not always fatal. Is that right? Is there there's some children that are able to pull through is that

Melissa Theisen 4:54

correct? I think the statistic is like one and 24,000 babies are born with it. Okay. So it's seven letters, V, A, C, T E, R L. And there are so many different variations of it based off those seven systems. So each case is so vastly unique, which is one of the, I guess, statistics all of a sudden are thrown out the window, because every case is so different, at least that's how I felt. But Morgan specifically, we were very hopeful and optimistic that it was treatable. And what does life look a little different than we expected? Absolutely. But we were we were ready for all of those challenges. Sure.

Fuzz Martin 5:32

So he spent those 82 days in at Children's. Did you guys spend your whole time there as well? It was, I mean, were you there pretty much all the time.

Matt Theisen 5:43

Yeah, we were. She was much better than I was. She was there every single day. I think I missed one day out of those 82 days. She was better by spending nights there. But we made it a point every day to spend as much time as we could. I'm a school teacher. So I went back to work in September, and I was doing summer school. But you know, I would make it a point every day after summer school you just got in a routine. If you're going out in the hospital, he'd spend your afternoons there, your evenings, their weekends, we'd get up early. We were there every day. So we didn't live there. But we were pretty darn close living there. Sure.

Melissa Theisen 6:16

And I don't know if your mouths not giving himself enough credit, the staff, our nurses and doctors were so important. And those reminders of you'd need to go home and rest to bring your best self forward. The next day. Of course, there were some nights where you just couldn't leave. But you know, you hear this a lot about Children's Hospital, how amazing. Every professional there is the nurses, the therapists, the surgeons, doctors, and they are so talented, but they are also so compassionate and they are real people. And when we left the NICU or the cardiac ICU, we knew they were taking care of Morgan in the in the best way possible. We never we never doubted that. And they also did great things like watch Bucs games with him like made sure they were on in the room and and play the new Taylor Swift album for it. I mean, it was them. They were absolutely his family. So leaving him at it was never as difficult as maybe it sounds. Sure. Yeah.

Matt Theisen 7:15

We could, we could leave every night. And if we you know, let's just check in on Morgan quick. You know, we had the number we called the nurse nurse Give us the update. So yeah, we were always there. We always had an in. We always knew what was going on in that room.

Fuzz Martin 7:28

I think I saw one of your Instagram posts that he got to watch the Bucs playoff game and stuff like that. Yeah, that

Melissa Theisen 7:34

was hands down the best night and then thank you. Yeah. And I'm not saying he was a good luck time. But I'm not not saying yeah, it was it might have been a little more than magic there. But yeah, there's a little bit of an energy that that night in the NICU. Everybody had the TV's on in their rooms. And it it felt like home. Sure. Yeah. That's great. So after

Fuzz Martin 7:58

he left this earth, how did how is you as parents? How do you cope with losing a child?

Melissa Theisen 8:04

Sure. We were actually talking about that on on the way here like how do we answer that question?

Matt Theisen 8:11

Every day. I mean, you still he's on your mind every every single day. I feel like we have been surrounded by like the best family, the best friends, the best coworkers, the best community, the on blast to go through this to have people at every corner. Somebody was always there to have your back. People are always checking in with us not to say we struggle. You still struggle every day. Right? Yeah. When those people aren't around, and but knowing knowing the support that was behind us and having each other obviously, just are so lucky. And Morgan still here with us. We know like everything we do. Either we're doing it for them or we know that he's there with us. So that I mean that makes it so much easier knowing that his legacy is living on. So it makes waking up every day and going to work and doing all these things worth it because we're still his parents.

Fuzz Martin 9:02

That's great. I've got goosebumps.

Melissa Theisen 9:06

Matt and I. This is just so top of mind we were talking about on the way here, one of the first days in the NICU before Morgan's health really took a turn for for the worst turn that we had unexpected. Matt had said to me like we have to do something to like stay involved with children's hospital after we're home and after Morgan's grown up, that was kind of the the thought process. So even before it got really critical and scary. We knew we would forever be connected to Children's Hospital. And after he passed very quickly, we we put together this idea of the Morgan Matthew Foundation. And there were there's so many reasons behind it but all sort of deeply rooted and this ability or this this way we can continue to be Morgan's parents. So we are Morgan's parents. Of course we know that and we feel that but we We still have this, this like innate desire to parent him to use our hands to be his mom and dad. So other parents that looks like driving their kids to school and going to basketball games. For us we needed, we needed a way to do that. So that was creating the foundation, which also kept us closely connected with, with his care team at Children's who we've grown to love and adore. And it makes him feel present. And in a way I could have never expected or anticipated in so many ways, this sounds kind of, I don't know, crude or morbid, but we sometimes forget that he died because he just is such an active part of our day to day life. And it feels really good. That's great.

Matt Theisen:

And I think, I don't know, we've we lived through the the worst situation, right? Losing a child. And we realized that we aren't the only ones that have lost somebody that we loved a child or, you know, a parent or whatever, and just seeing how fortunate we are. We know, right? We saw it in the hospital, we saw it in the you know, nice view. And then they knew that there's families out there that aren't as fortunate as we are that we just wish that everybody who went through a situation like ours could feel the love that we feel, yeah, that's wonderful.

Fuzz Martin:

I mean it in the taking a situation that you can control and using that to help yourselves and also to help others who may be going through something similar or even the same thing. It's amazing. With the Morgan Mathieu Foundation, what is the what is the mission of the foundation itself.

Melissa Theisen:

So our mission is to raise critical funds to enhance the treatment care and research for infants with complex medical conditions, with an ultimate goal of improving outcomes for infants like Morgan, there was a lot of thought that went into that mission, we knew we really wanted to obviously, support families like ours, and babies like Morgan, but also so deeply the care teams that take care of them. There's a very vivid memory in my mind, it was after a really devastating night with Morgan, he had coded he was on life support that morning, it was really sort of the beginning of us preparing to say goodbye to him. And we found out that that night that he had coded several other children on the floor, we're having really devastating nights. And there was several families that day that were feeling the same way we were. And not only that, but his team was exhausted, the nurses were tired, the doctors were tired, the surgeons were tired, all of a sudden, we feel like humanity of it all. These are just humans trying to save the tiniest, thickest humans. And the foundation is so deeply rooted and being able to support them. Because in that moment, I thought if Dr. A, decides he can't do this anymore, because he's missing time with his own children, and it's too stressful. I could not shame him for that. Like this is an incredibly difficult job and savings. Morgan's life was so important to us. But the lives of all of those other incredibly sick children are also wildly important. And how do you save them all? Is, is the question and for us, it's to support the extremely compassionate, brave individuals that choose that as their profession and love it day in and day out. And any way we can support them to do the research they want to do or create the care initiatives that they want to do to improve outcomes. Yeah, we're there. We're all in.

Fuzz Martin:

I had cheated and listened to an episode of Tarra Gundrum's podcast that you guys were on, and I'll link to that in the show notes of this episode, where you were talking about one of the doctors who had come in he was like in his golf clothes, trying to help save Morgan right?

Melissa Theisen:

Yeah. Matt, maybe Matt tells that story really great.

Matt Theisen:

He was born, it was like 630 in the morning and it just you know, the nurse that said that? Oh, man, I wish I was gonna be here for you know, Morgan being born and then she email Morgan awesome, came out of nowhere. He was born and first time, you know, experiencing, you know, a birth and, you know, cut the cord and all that good stuff. And they bring them over to the table. They call dad over there. I'm watching them and then it something it didn't feel right. And then he just asked me to go stand off to the side. And that's when I saw that they started compression. So I knew that, you know, he wasn't breathing. And then you can hear the beeps and you know, the beeps would fade and awesome. didn't really hear anything and then people are in and out of that room like crazy. So then they called me over by Melissa and they came over and they she apologized and said we have tried everything that we could to save your baby. And I just remember looking down on, you know, losing it. He's no longer with us. And this guy came in, I think his name was Dr. Nick Meyer, for some reason I want to say, wearing. It looks like he just got off at his hall. And he came in, and I just remember them doing CPR and the beeping came back. And that doctor that was standing bedside, kind of ran back over there. And next thing, you know, I'm running down to the NICU with them and Morgan's breathing, and they have him in this, you know, little transportation crib and, you know, life is good again. So but and we always said, like, we never had the chance to thank that doctor. Yeah, but I swear his name was Dr. Nick, Nick Meyers. All I remember. And he was wearing a golf polo in shorts. And he was in there operating on or not operating more, but working on Morgan. Yeah. And he's the one that brought him back to life.

Fuzz Martin:

It's amazing. And then all this was going on during COVID to write this is. Yeah, like, so imagining the stress of as you were saying, the doctors and nurses and all the support team. Yeah, yeah, they were of course, you guys, but I just,

Melissa Theisen:

it was it was a wild time. There was a I mean, I remember exactly, there was a huge surge in the Delta variant. So everything got a little crazy right then. And it's sometimes I think we we firmly have no regrets. We know we did everything we could for Morgan, his care team dead. We tried to infuse so much joy into that room every single day. And we know we did that to the best of our ability. But sometimes I'll you know, find myself thinking I wish I would have like pushed the envelope more in terms of getting more visitors like I wish I would have done that gone and more time with his grandparents. But it was so scary to do that at that time. I'm it.

Matt Theisen:

I remember every little ticker that you felt your throat. Yeah, like, do you test like, obviously Morgan's health is number one priority. And we actually got an argument, right? Because do you test or is it just like it is in our head like

Melissa Theisen:

Matt was a little more relaxed than I was.

Matt Theisen:

Like, we could only have Morgan's grandmas were the only ones that were allowed for his time and nobody is allowed in the NICU. But in the cardiac ICU, we had two visitors for those weeks. Then on his last day when they knew, um, that we're gonna say goodbye the day before they let us bring their It was awesome. They, they let us bring in our whole family, whoever wanted to come for a time to you know, meet him, hang out with him a little bit, read them a book and say goodbye to him. So in that sense, they were they are amazing.

Fuzz Martin:

With the Morgan Matthew Foundation, do you guys only support children's hospital? Are there other things there? Is it mostly just to children's?

Melissa Theisen:

Yes, so we all the funds we raise go directly to Children's Hospital of Wisconsin. They then live in a fund they're named after Morgan and care teams and either the NICU or the cardiac ICU. Both that took care of Morgan during his life can write grant requests for projects and research initiatives that they'd like to move forward with. And then our Board of Directors approves those requests

Fuzz Martin:

to raise those funds. You have a couple of events coming up. So can you tell me first there's one happening at Chick fil A right in Menomonee? Falls?

Matt Theisen:

Absolutely. Chick fil A in Menomonee. Falls? Brandon April do they own it? They they reached out to us and asked if we'd be interested in having them host a spirit night there were 20% of the proceeds will be donated back to the Morgan Massey foundation. So we have that planned for April 11 are paying on four to 8pm. And if you you are there to get grab some dinner, if you mentioned the Morgan Mathieu Foundation, part of your order. We'll go back to the foundation. We're planning on having a merchandise sale. They're set up at the Chick fil A restaurant, a silent auction, and hopefully a photo booth.

Fuzz Martin:

Okay, great. Did you Did you guys know them beforehand? Or did how did they find you?

Matt Theisen:

So the Duke Family. I'm a teacher at Slinger. Elementary. Okay. And the Duke Family all three of their children. Oh, okay. Attend Slinger Elementary. And then you talk about a wonderful family. They do so much for I know, not only the Slinger community, but just the county in general. They're always looking for ways to give back. And we just happen to be very lucky to know them and they wanted to help out which is awesome.

Fuzz Martin:

That's great. So again, that is on Thursday, April 11. From four till 8pm. Is that correct?

Melissa Theisen:

I think it's a Tuesday. That was a typo on my end. I'm sorry, sorry. Yep, that's me.

Fuzz Martin:

That is Tuesday, April 11. From four till 8pm. At Chick fil A in Menomonee Falls in you have to mention the Morgan Mathieu foundation in order to have them donate a certain percentage to the foundation. Yep.

Matt Theisen:

And I believe that'll be a drive thru and in restaurant, but there's going to be we're gonna have board members, family members working that night. They'll see the Morgan Matthew foundation there.

Fuzz Martin:

And then Saturday, June 10. You guys have your second annual golf outing? Yes.

Melissa Theisen:

So we have our second annual golf outing on Saturday, June 10. It will be at Ironwood golf course and Sussex last year was our first year obviously, we hosted it at Mauna Kea golf course and Menomonee Falls, it was a phenomenal day. While it's not surprising at all, we continue to be shocked by the incredible ways our support system and community, people we know dearly, and people we've never met before coming together to support something that means so much to us. So last year, we raised over $60,000, at the golf outing, which we donated to Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, of course, and this year, we're hoping to beat it. I don't know if we've set an actual goal yet, but I feel like 75,000 feels

Fuzz Martin:

Feels good. Feels doable. Yeah. Yeah, we

Melissa Theisen:

really tried to strike a balance between incorporating our mission and Morgan into so many moments throughout the day and just having an absolute blast.

Fuzz Martin:

Sounds like there's a doctor, you guys should invite to that. So again, that is Saturday, June 10. at Ironwood golf course in Sussex, how can people sign up for that? Is there is that available yet?

Melissa Theisen:

Not quite yet. Registration will be open online. mid February is the goal, but maybe give us till the end of February? Sure. It will be at Morgan, Matthew foundation.org, where you can sign up and register for either a sponsorship or golf team or both?

Fuzz Martin:

And you guys also have, you're active on social media as well, right?

Melissa Theisen:

Yes, Instagram is our jam. That's where most of where we share is,

Matt Theisen:

Instagram is Melissa's jam. I don't take any credit for the post or the wonderful wording of the post. Any detail that goes into that your work on

Melissa Theisen:

Instagram is at Morgan dot Matthew dot FDN. And then we have a Facebook page that I recently got up and running and LinkedIn. But that one needs a little work yet so no judgment there.

Fuzz Martin:

No judgement at all. Well, great work doing what you're doing and taking this situation and turning it into a positive for other families who may be going through something similar, as devastating as it is the fact that you're able to take that grief and pain and that memory and turn it into something that can help others I think is wonderful. So appreciate you guys coming on. Thanks for coming in today.

Matt Theisen:

Thanks for having us. Thank you.

Fuzz Martin:

You're welcome. Thank you again to Melissa and Matt Theisen of The Morgan Matthew foundation for joining me today as we kick off CHD week. Again, you can find out more information on their organization at Morgan Matthew foundation.org. That is also where you will eventually be able to sign up for their annual golf outing and support their charity, which supports Children's Hospital of Wisconsin. Again, I have more episodes in the works, so you won't have to wait as long between episodes. If you're just finding the show and want to listen to more. You can catch up on the back catalogue, through Apple podcasts, Spotify and really anywhere you want to listen and be sure to click the Follow button in those apps to hear new episodes as they come out. You can also visit my website at fifteenwithfuzz.com. That is fifteen spelled out with fuzz.com. But as always, I appreciate you listening and I will talk to you next Tuesday. Right here on Fifteen Minutes with fuzz

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About the Podcast

Fifteen Minutes with Fuzz
Showcasing the positive things happening in Washington County, Wisconsin.
Fifteen Minutes with Fuzz is sheds light on all the great things going on in and around Washington County, Wisconsin. The host, Fuzz Martin, is a local business owner (EPIC Creative) and a former radio personality (92.5 WBWI - now Buzz Country). New episodes launch on Tuesday mornings. https://fifteenwithfuzz.com

Whether you're in West Bend, Kewaskum, Slinger, Hartford, Germantown, Richfield, Jackson, or anywhere else in the area, 15 Minutes with Fuzz serves the community with fun and positive people, places, events, and attractions.

About your host

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Fuzz Martin

Fuzz Martin is a partner and Chief Strategy Officer at EPIC Creative in West Bend, Wis.