Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Lactation Luminaries: Founder of Lact-Aid Passed Away

As I went to add a link to the Lact-Aid site in my last post, I noticed a memoriam to the inventor and founder of Lact-Aid, Jimmie Lynn Avery, and couldn't pass it by without remarking on it.
Jimmie Lynne Avery, age 65, of Athens, TN, died Monday, October 26, 2009 at her home, surrounded by family and loved ones. Succumbing to a life long lung birth defect and resulting lung disease of which most of her Lact-Aid mothers and babies never knew she had.
She successfully nursed her adopted children via a Lact-Aid prototype invented by herself an her husband. Read the whole story here - it's an inspiring one.

As I've written before, both here in my unabridged story and on countless message boards where advice on optimal supplementation is inquired about, the Lact-Aid was a significant contributor to my eventual success in nursing. Having tried both, I feel strongly that it's far superior to its mass-produced counterpart, the Medela SNS - and I said so long before I had an inkling about some of Medela's questionable business practices (a complex issue, of course).

But her passing away is even more personal than that, for me. When I called the company to order some parts - a friend gave me a partial unit to use, as we were beyond strapped - I spoke to Jimmie Lynne directly. I expected to simply place my order, give my credit and shipping info, and be done with it, but her friendly voice inquired gently about my situation. I gave it to her in as much of a nutshell as I could.

"You must be exhausted," she said - such a simple statement, but the compassion and sincerity in her voice came through so clearly that I instantly burst into tears. She continued to listen and offered more kindness, telling me a little more about how the device would work and to make sure I called back if I needed any help at all, any time. This was our only conversation, but I'll never forget it. The human touch (well, so to speak, via telephone) was indelible.

It turns out this personal connection was part of her entire philosophy. From the memorial on the site:
She was still helping and counseling mothers four days before her death. Jimmie Lynne helped countless thousands of mothers and babies with a sweet touch that only she had. For nearly forty years Jimmie Lynne would not let any one else at Lact-Aid answer the phone or take orders. She would say that was the most fun job there was “ talking with and helping mothers and babies”.

When Lily was about a year old, I sent the company a thank you letter with an abridged version of our story and got this back:

Thank you for sending us your story about your experience nursing Lily. We are so happy to know that Lact-Aid had a helpful part. Thanks for sharing with us, and with others out there on the web. If anyone asks, let them know we love to hear from them, whether it is for questions, support, suggestions, whatever.... The best part of being involved with Lact-Aid, to me, is the contact with so many wonderful people who care deeply about their babies and families, and contact with the LCs and other health professionals who do their part to support breastfeeding.
Give Lily a big hug and kiss from us.

Warmest regards!
Jimmie Lynne
I pray that the company continues on without Jimmie Lynne, and in her spirit. I'm going to offer free advertising on my site, in fact - something I thought of and should have done a while ago.

Thank you for your legacy. The lives of mothers and babies have been forever changed for the better because of you.

1 comment:

  1. When I called last fall with questions about using Lact-Aid for the first time with a 10 month old, I got the exact same treatment from her husband. He was so kind and loving and empathetic, that I too burst into tears. Its even more amazing to me now, to know that he was mourning his wife at the time and still gave me 100% attention and care.