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Nurse raffles off own house to help CDH foundation

While some choose to raise funds in conventional ways—by selling cookies or washing cars—Venus Standard is raffling off her house.

Standard, a labor and delivery nurse at Duke University Hospital, is raffling off her Chapel Hill townhome Feb. 27 as part of the House of Hopes and Dreams Raffle to raise funds for the Parker Reese Foundation. The foundation helps families with babies diagnosed with congenital diaphragmatic hernia. CDH is a rare, life-threatening disease caused by the diaphragm’s failure to fully close while the baby is in the womb. In serious cases, many CDH babies survive only a few hours after delivery.

Standard’s efforts for the CDH cause began in 2006 when patient­ Jessica Singletary’s baby, Parker Reese, died of CDH just 20 hours after her birth by cesarean section.

“There are some patients you kind of cling to, and Jessica happened to be one of them,” Standard said. “She made a statement that clung to my heart... It happened to be Mother’s Day weekend... she said she couldn’t believe she was burying her first daughter on Mother’s Day weekend.”

Standard admitted that a provider’s relationship with a patient typically ends on release from the hospital.

 “Some nurses and some providers get attached to the patients and take to them,” Standard said. “Does it happen extremely often? No it doesn’t.”

Singletary, with her husband Ashley Singletary, went on to establish a foundation in honor of their child, forming “pockets of groups” of families with CDH-diagnosed children. Singletary said she asked Standard to become a member of the foundation’s board because she was “there from the beginning.”

“If it weren’t for Venus,” said Singletary, “I would never have seen my daughter alive. She just took that extra step, went a little bit above and beyond. She’s a very special part of our family—we love her to death.”

The Parker Reese Foundation sponsors a house, called Parker’s House, in which the families of CDH-diagnosed children—many of whom travel to Duke Hospital or UNC Health Care from out-of-state—can stay. The maintenance of the house as well as its mortgage have yet to be paid, however, which is why Standard came up with the idea of raffling her house as she was planning to move anyway. The Foundation will buy Standard’s house and sell raffle tickets for the house for $10 per ticket. Profits will go toward paying off the mortgage and funding CDH research, Singletary said.

Dr. Michael Cotten, the neonatologist who worked with the Singletarys in 2006, said he considers Standard’s gesture remarkable.

“I think in our world, in the intensive care nursery where the babies can stay three, six months, the nurses can develop a very strong relationship with families,” he said. “It manifests in different things... they spend time with families, they may babysit for a family. They maintain contact.”

Or they raffle a house.

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