by Emilie-Noelle Provost
Life can take an unexpected turn at any time, sometimes turning joyful circumstances into frightening ones. Few people know this better than Merrimack Valley Credit Union (MVCU) member and Methuen native Bobby Cole and his family.
In the fall of 2020, Cole and his wife, Tori, learned they were expecting their first child. The couple were thrilled, as were their families. Like most expectant parents, the Coles began to make space for the baby in their home and in their hearts. But in the early spring of 2021, when her pregnancy was 26 weeks along, Tori began to experience abdominal pain. Alarmed, the couple rushed to their local emergency room.
Recognizing that her condition was too serious to be treated locally, Tori’s doctors transferred her Tufts Medical Center in Boston. At Tufts, she was discovered to have a placental abruption, a potentially life-threatening complication in which the placenta begins to separate from the uterine wall. The condition, which according to the March of Dimes occurs in about one percent of pregnancies, can cause the mother to experience heavy internal and external bleeding and deprive the fetus of both oxygen and nutrition.
After spending a week in the hospital’s maternal intensive care unit, Tori was sent home. But just four weeks later, during the first week of May, Tori was rushed back to Tufts where she gave birth at 30 weeks. She made it through the birth in good health and the Coles’ son, Robert, entered the world weighing a little more than three pounds.
Babies born prematurely often experience problems breathing and regulating their body temperatures. They also run the risk of developing complications with their hearts, digestive systems and nervous systems. Robert was moved to an incubator in the neonatal intensive care unit where he remained for two weeks.
“The technology Tufts had was amazing,” Cole says. “The support we received was incredible. None of our family or friends could visit because of COVID, but the staff at Tufts were so compassionate. They made us feel comfortable.”
Tori and Robert visit Bobby at the Methuen Central Fire Station to celebrate the annual Fire Fighters Memorial Sunday.
After Tori and the baby were safely home, Cole began thinking of ways he could give something back to the medical center that had provided such care and compassion. The lifelong athlete, who worked as an equipment manager for the New England Patriots before becoming a Methuen firefighter, eventually decided to run the 2023 Boston Marathon to raise money for Tufts. The only problem? He hated running.
“I wanted to take this awful experience that [my wife and son] went through and apply it to myself,” he says. “The hardest thing was sitting on the sidelines. There was nothing I could do to help. This is my way of honoring them and giving back.”
Not being a runner Cole couldn’t qualify for the marathon on his own, so he applied for a spot on Team Tufts MC, a member of the Boston Marathon Official Charity Program, and was accepted.
“The training was rough at first,” says Cole, who attends weekly Zoom meetings with the rest of Team Tufts MC and the team’s running coach. Although he hasn’t been able to make it to any of the team’s group runs, he’s stuck to the training program on his own and is currently running more than 15 miles at a time. “I used to think running two miles was good,” he says.
Cole, whose goal is to raise $7,500, says he’s actually starting to enjoy running. “I use the time to clear my mind,” he says. “I will probably keep running after the marathon is over.”
To make a donation in of support Cole’s Boston Marathon run, visit his fundraising page on GivenGain.com.