The next two and a half months were filled with long nights in the hospital nursery, many surgeries, and promises of success and recovery. “While this time sounds horrific,” Todd said, “It was a truly amazing time watching the face of a child in the midst of so much struggle and pain look up at you with a smile. His smile and personality warmed the hearts of the nurses, doctors and staff at Arnold Palmer Hospital, and showed us the compassion and care that these individuals brought to work with them every day.”
In the fall of 2005, as it appeared that Carson would again rise to beat another challenge, he took a turn for the worse. On October 17, Carson lost his valiant battle.
The extent of Carson’s reach became clear at his funeral when it was filled with not just friends and family, but coworkers, hospital staff, and people from throughout the community, many of whom had never met him. And with a show of even greater love, this diverse group of individuals helped establish the Carson Alan Swingle Helping Heart Memorial Endowment Scholarship for Nursing at UCF so the legacy of Carson’s smile would continue to shine in the nurses that help other families facing similar crises.
Dr. Jean Leuner, dean of the UCF College of Nursing, is one of many who have been touched by the Swingle’s story. “The contribution from the Swingle family and their friends is a wonderful testimony to the outstanding care nursing professionals provide. We are honored they chose the College of Nursing to establish a scholarship in memory of their son, and we will use their generous contribution to educate future nurses who continue to touch lives, lead by example and make a difference.”
An unexpected but welcome result of the fund is the awareness it has created for Congenital Heart Disease (CHD). “As prevalent as the disease is, there’s not much awareness for it,” said Ashley. “There’s the Children’s Heart Foundation in Tampa but awareness and things like support groups are amazingly small given the number of families who are impacted. Families are so busy trying to deal with their daily rigors that there’s just not enough time to form or get involved with support groups.”
CHD is the number one birth defect in the nation. Nearly 1-in-100 babies are born with a CHD, and it is the number one cause of birth defect-related deaths. “So many families have been through the same struggles we have,” said Todd. “We never knew that our neighbor went through it with his daughter. A t-ball coach we know had CHD. It’s unlike other birth defects in that it’s not outwardly visible, really. You don’t necessarily see people walking down the street and know they have a defect.”
Naomi Camacho, ’08 was the first recipient of the scholarship. She is now a nurse at Arnold Palmer Hospital, working in the Ortho-Neuro Unit in Pediatrics. “I felt so touched by their story. It brought tears to my eyes and I’m so honored to have received the award.”
“Establishing the endowment was a way for us to recognize the nurses and staff members who did so much during our time there.” Todd said. “It seemed like a really good fit, and a great way to remember Carson and help the UCF nursing program.”