A slice for life

August 11, 2023
Family of four smiles at the beach. The parents and daughter are wearing caps. The son is leaning on the father.
Adam Pavao, his wife Lauren, their son Boston and their daughter Basil. Photos provided

Park Pizza Co., local to the Charleston area, kicked off the month of August with its annual fundraiser to support the MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children's Hospital's neo-natal intensive care unit (NICU). Eleven years ago, co-owner Adam Pavao and his wife, Lauren, found themselves in the NICU of the current hospital's predecessor after the birth of their daughter, Basil Louise.

Once Basil was born, she experienced meconium aspiration syndrome, a situation which occurs when newborns breathe a combination of meconium and amniotic fluid into the lungs around the time of birth. 

This inhalation can be life threatening – so at just 23 hours old, Basil underwent surgery and was placed on an ECMO, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation machine, a form of life support. She remained on ECMO support for five days. ECMO has long been a priority for the hospital in both of its incarnations. Its current ECMO program is one of only 16 in the world to have platinum designation from the Extracorporeal Life Support organization.

Man in a baseball cap holds baby girl. 
Adam Pavao holds his daughter in his restaurant. A board advertising a pizza named after Basil Louise hangs behind them.

As first-time parents, it was especially rough on Adam and Lauren as they watched their daughter spend her first month of life in the NICU. Unfortunately, overnight guests, including parents, could not be accommodated at that time. That made parting ways with their daughter, after spending 14-hour days in the NICU, increasingly difficult for the two Pavaos.

The hospital they were in had very limited space. It has since been replaced by a new hospital, which opened in 2020. It has 80 private rooms so parents can stay and was highly recognized in the latest U.S. News and World Report rankings.

The Pavaos' separation was stressful to say the least, they explained. But between the unwavering affection and caring displayed by the team of nurses, doctors and other health care providers who were on her team, the couple soon shifted from feeling scared to feeling safe.

The NICU became the couple’s home for a month, and before they knew it, baby Basil was soon strong enough to go home with her parents. 

“The people who worked in the NICU were like family,” Adam said. “They cried and celebrated with us, and when Basil was able to go home at 4 weeks old, we had a hard time saying goodbye to them all. We even went back and visited a few times that first year.”

Basil Louise just turned 11 years old on Aug. 5. She is thriving – as healthy and happy as can be. She even has a pizza at the restaurant named after her.

Grateful for the compassion and comfort displayed by the staff of the NICU, Adam felt compelled to give back. His business partner of 14 years, Leigh-Ann Gobel, came up with the idea to launch a fundraiser during Basil’s birth month. 

Eleven years later, Park Pizza Co. is continuing the tradition. For every ‘Basil Louise’ pizza or ‘Rony! Roni! Rone!’ pizza sold, a dollar from each order will go to the MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital NICU. 

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