[Intersection Podcast] Episode 014: Miracle Baby

Jeff and Amory ConeDo you know someone who has experienced infertility? This is one of those tough subjects to talk about not only in mixed company but also around family. It took Sarah and I years to have Rose, and when she was born in 2011, we experienced a miracle especially after three miscarriages. Around the same time, I was helping Greenville Health System tell some amazing stories in celebration of their centennial. This is when I met Jeff and Amory Cone.

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Facebook “Star” Rating System Released –> GHS Life Center

Have you noticed the new five star Facebook rating system? It popped up on one of GHS’s Facebook pages  this week (GHS Life Center’s Page).

It looks like Facebook just released this new system and they are testing it out on certain pages. TechCrunch reported this new deal on November 7, 2013:

“Using a star system for place and page ratings isn’t entirely new; Facebook has been collecting star ratings from users on the desktop and via local search for quite a while now, and also seeking star ratings on content and apps via Timeline. What is new is making this information explicitly displayed on the social network itself, in a prominent place on a business or place Page.

This shift, if it moves from the testing phase to general adoption, has a couple major implications for Facebook users. First, for general members, it provides an increased degree of sentiment information surrounding places and content that goes well beyond the simple off/on attribute of the Like. “

For businesses, it’s not clear yet whether displaying this rating will be optional or mandatory, but if Facebook is making a play to compete with the Yelps, Foursquares and Angie’s Lists of the world when it comes to local discovery and service recommendations, it would make sense that they are required by default. That could mean a considerable shift in how businesses use FB, with more emphasis placed on customer service versus just maintaining a presence on the network. Likes are easy, after all, but getting users to fill up that star bar will require a lot more effort and interaction.”

Here is the comment from Facebook:
“We’re extending star ratings on Facebook from mobile to desktop – to make it easier for people to discover great businesses around them. This is beneficial for both businesses and consumers. Star ratings encourage more people to rate a business, making it eligible to appear in News Feed and help others discover a business they didn’t know about previously. For businesses themselves, this also leads to greater brand awareness.

As you may recall, star ratings launched in early 2012 with the introduction of Nearby on mobile. Now we’re bringing the visibility of star ratings to a more prominent spot at the top of Pages’ timeline on desktop and to the preview in News Feed.”

Stories of Impact: Driving Data to improve EMS Care

This past summer, I had the privilege of meeting Tony Fernandez in Chapel Hill, NC. His story has many layers and his research impacts anyone who has or will have to use EMS to transport them to a SC/NC hospital.

Tony is a former EMT. He took his knowledge and experience into a graduate fellowship where he earned his PhD. His passion comes from his father, a fire fighter who lost his life from the prolonged exposure to the toxic dust from 911. Tony’s father was a first responder to the twin towers spending months combing through twisted debris, holding out hope for survivors.

As he shared his father’s story, we could see the passion in his eyes. He wanted to use his skills and education to make access to quality care better for the people in NC and SC.

He is the research director for the EMS Performance Center in Chapel Hill, NC. His research impacts improved response times and puts life-saving equipment where it’s most needed.

Bottom-line, his research collects the data from all the EMS response times across NC and SC. He crunches the data and helps EMS all across the two states improve efficiency. Why, because seconds matter.

Remember the story I share with you last year? His name was Mr. John Fields of Seneca, SC. (Click Here to See His Story). He had a heart attack in a rural area of Oconee County. He traveled over 60 plus miles by land and air to receive life saving care in 63 minutes…the time from the moment he called 911 until the cardiologist performed the procedure to save his life at GHS.

Each minute, each second counts…making Tony Fernandez’s work that much more important. Between 2007 and 2012, The Duke Endowment distributed more than $6 million in grants to strengthen emergency medical services in North Carolina and South Carolina. This funding has helped Tony reach some amazing goals.

To read more about Tony’s story, CLICK HERE.

An IVF Story – The Lineage of the Collaborative Production Process

I admit it…I was extremely close to this story. So close. I wonder if I could have been an effective journalist trying to tell this story for broadcast news. My path, our paths were somewhat similar…Sarah and I struggled to have Rose. Jeff and Amory struggled to have Payton.

When I wrote the original script, I planned for it to be approximately a 15-minute story in video format. I wrote this story and knew that it would have to be edited and condensed. I also knew that we were going to have to find the right voice-over artist.

The first script had many holes, yet sounded great on paper… but I was so close to the story that I’m glad I worked with a great writer at GHS. As we worked through the revisions, we knew we were going to have it voiced numerous times. Mainly, to listen to the story translated on the screen.

Many times, we producers get so caught up in the copy, we forget how the written word will translate into the spoken word. We forget that the words, when transcribed from the interviews, look and read differently than they actually originally sounded. Often, we even write ourselves into a hole visually. What do I mean? I’m referring to when what we write doesn’t translate visually to the screen. There is no visually compelling way to completely represent the spoken word.

There is an ethical implication behind telling stories that we have become very close to…we sometimes lose sight how it will truly impact the audience. What we see through the clouded, predisposed producer lens may not translate to the intended audience. Often times critical distance is necessary during the revision cycle.

Why did I want to share this experience? Well, I was very close the the first script…even a bit defensive when the idea of editing the words was suggested. This is an example of why collaborative writing and editing has become a crucial part of my business model. It’s crucial to work with the client and other experts to find the right path to tell the story.

We creative people sometimes think that it’s “our way or the highway”…but often, that outlook can be detrimental in the business world. I wanted to share the first script with you, to allow you to see the evolution of this video. I think it’s fascinating how these types of stories come to be…and the collaborative process that facilitates the end result.

——- SCRIPT 5/31/18 ———–

Video Nats: Open with video from the birthday celebration

Voice Over – There is something special about birthday’s

Amory – I know Payton will not remember any of it. As they say, the first birthday is for the mom

Voice Over –Especially that first birthday…

Jeff – It was a huge amount of prep from the food to the party theme, party favors, to the invitations..top to bottom.

Video Nats – People singing Happy Birthday

Amory – As soon as we put that little cake down in front of her…she dug right in. She mutilated that thing.

Voice Over – We want to create a time to always remember…

Jeff  – It is still like a dream…I ask myself a lot…maybe it is not even real.

—- transition —-

Voice Over – Jeff and Amory met each other in college…

Amory – I knew he was the one because there was something about him. He was so different from me. But he had such a tender heart. You know…he was kind of a rough and tough guy. He drove the big truck.

Voice Over – Feel in love and started a life together…

Jeff – My wife and I both have gotten married a little bit later. Both kind of career oriented…delayed the ideas of family…having a family too late. Then we started trying, things did not work like a storybook.

Voice Over – But what they really wanted…was a family…

Jeff – Its such a commitment to start a family in today’s world.

Voice Over – They did not realize…how hard it was going to be to just to start the process…

Amory – You know, we just had a lot of difficulty getting pregnant. I found out I had endometriosis, which I didn’t know that it was a pretty severe case of it.

Jeff – There is always some fear…reluctance to bite the bullet. And then you think of going through fertility processing some of the costs you hear. It can really be…you want to try every avenue to make things happened naturally rather than medically.

Voice Over – Reluctance, Fear, and the reality of a long road ahead…

Amory – Yeah, I had a lot of breaking points. You always think…why me? Why is this happening to me? I think everybody that goes through this goes through their mind at some point. You just don’t think it’s fair. Here you have…I have a great husband, we have a good house, we are inviting to a child, we want one so bad. And to think…why is this happening? We are here, we are ready, we are financially stable, we are open arms and loving.

Voice – And then there was some hope…

Jeff – Dr. Lessey helped us…he was our initial contact. He had done a lot of research with endometriosis…he was really carried the ball as far as carrying us through the process.

Amory – I don’t know, I just prayed with it every night. I felt really good about things. And I felt I had more of a positive attitude. Dr. Lessey was the one who did the procedure and he was really adamant about being the one to do the procedure this time around. I just know that day when I went in there…I just knew it that it happened?

Voice Over – And then…it did happen…that one moment in time…

Amory – The day we found out we were pregnant, I was at work of course.

Amory – I went to do the blood test and drove into work. I knew it would take a couple of hours, so I figured I would get the phone call at 11am. I told them I was not going to answer the call at work. I said just leave me a message and I will check my voice mail. That is what they did, they left me a message…it was about 11am.

Amory – I went out to the car and I told myself it was not going to be the end of the world if I have bad news. I remember hearing the voice mail…I have good news for you

Amory – I just could not even believe it. I just remember crying and it was awesome.

Amory – I remember calling Jeff and I couldn’t wait. I had to call him right away. I think he was just stunned. he was almost speechless. he was like….you are kidding me.

—- transition —-

Voice Over – Birthday’s are special, especially first birthday’s…they help you remember. It was just one year earlier before little Payton blew out these candles that Jeff’s remembers when his dream became a reality.

Jeff – I guess i knew it was real about 2 o’clock in the morning on November 29th last year when my wife came to me and woke me up to tell me it was time to go to the hospital. Then it became real.

Voice Over – And for Amory, reality was before even way before Payton even arrived.

Amory – I would say we knew it was real when we went to have our first ultrasound and hear the heart beat. That was only seven weeks…but yet you could still see on the ultrasound. You heard the ba bump ba bump ba bump and it was just amazing.

Voice Over – Now this little reality is everyday life.


Voice Over – Famly time at the end of a day brings the normalcy of a routine.

Amory – Usually we come home and feed her…then we have a little bit of play time. Then we try to spend as much time as we can with her during that small amount of time we have with her. We then usually bring her upstairs, try to start winding her down. Give her a bath, she loves her bath…

Voice Over – There is something about bath time and winding up the day. For working parents, those hours in the evening are ever more important.

Amory – Well…when we come home, it is hectic. Both parents working…trying to keep Payton on a schedule of eating but yet we want to spend as much time as we can with her because our time is limited during the week.

Voice Over – This reality, this everyday life, brings lots of reflection…

Jeff – It is still like a dream…I ask myself a lot…maybe it is not even real. It seems to good to be true to have a beautiful little girl, crawling soon to be walking, one year old…it just seems unbelievable.

Voice Over – Reflection that has empowered Jeff and Amory to share their story…

Jeff – Initially there is stigma until you get out and meet people and find out the condition of infertility…it is out there…it is spread around. When you are able to talk about it…you find out other people’s stories. And in my opinion, there is no reason to hang your head low…it is just a problem you need to work through.

Amory – It is ok to have issues like this…you are not weird or different…or to be shunned on because you have fertility issues. And if you continue to get the right help and get people involved…you can take something that is the hardest thing in your life and make it the best thing in your life!

Voice Over – That this picture perfect story, even with the long road, has become their everyday dream come true…

Jeff – I can remember leading up…it was a long road…it is probably good not to forget it because it makes it that much more valuable how hard you had to work to get the family you have now.

Amory – I understand what people say now…how awesome it is to be a mom. I did not really understand that before. But she has made us whole. She has just completed our lives.

Stories of Infertility: Many times – having a child is just hard.

Last year, I began working on a series of special stories for Greenville Health System…stories that shared the human element for the tagline “Advancing Health Care for Generations.” Each one of these stories has impacted me on some level. But I didn’t imagine that this story would have such an impact on my personal life.

When I met Amory and Jeff, I knew their story was going to be tough — tough to tell as well as investigate. From the first time I met Jeff, he presented himself as a husband who was willing to do just about anything to put a smile on Amory’s face. Jeff felt that “their” IVF story was all about Amory, specifically telling me that he felt she would tell “their story” best. From that moment, I knew this reserved gentleman had something to share. I just think he wasn’t ready to be in the forefront of his (their) story.

Amory and Jeff are just regular people. They look just like you and me. Both have successful careers, are hardworking, and love life. When it was time to start a family, they experienced what many face today…the long, difficult path of having a child. The word “infertility” is such a touchy subject for many couples; this untold story is normally not shared at the dinner table. It is just hard to bring words to this path many are traveling.

I know this path all too well. Sarah and I struggled to have Rose. It took us nearly three years for Rose to become a reality. If you take a walk through our backyard, you will see three small memorials to the three miscarriages we experienced. We even have ultrasounds from those three little ones. This past experience was that major reason we never named Rose until we knew she was going to be real, living, healthy baby. Her name for the first two trimesters was Z4.

Z4 stood for Zygote Number 4. Yes, it sounds harsh, removed, distant, and even somewhat pessimistic…but it was our reality. Zygote is a term used when signifying the first stage of the development of an organism. Sounds kind of like being in high school biology again. That distance brought comfort and provided the ability to find humor during a tense time.

It was January 2, 2011 and Z4 abruptly became a reality when Sarah just happened to pee on a stick in an Atlanta McDonalds bathroom. We were on the way back from our Christmas vacation and stopped at McD’s for a bathroom break. I was sitting in the car waiting for Sarah. I was wondering what the heck was taking so long. She hopped back in the car and the flood gates opened. She cried, “I’m pregnant…what are we going to do?”

Before Christmas, we had already scheduled a visit with a fertility specialist during the first week of January to chart our next plan of attack. The day we discovered that we were pregnant (again), it was a Sunday. We immediately called and left a message on the office answering service. We quickly received a call back from the nurse and they wanted us to come into the office Monday to chat. After numerous ultrasounds, multiple blood tests, and many medications, we began realizing that maybe this time was for real. Maybe it was time to start thinking of Z4 as an actual person instead of a project. Yet to me, Z4 was still Z4 until Z4 was born…and that day, our project became Rose.

Now Rose is turning two years old, and it’s a distant memory that she was once known as Z4.

We are surrounded by people whose stories are so different, yet similar. What have I learned? It ‘s ok to talk about it, to share, to offer support, and sometimes to offer advice. The only way to tackle these issues is to share our stories so that others can learn and find their path to a family.