TAMPA, Fla. — Imagine needing a prescription drug to save your life only to be told that there is a shortage of it.
That is what happened to Laura Bray after her daughter was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia at the age of nine.
"That was really tough for me as caretaker to my child when she asked me you know, am I going to die because I don't get my medicine," Bray said.
She was told there was a shortage for two of the three prescription drugs her daughter need and basically to move on.
That is not how it works for a mom whose daughter is fighting cancer.
Bray got to work, using her background as a business professor to help lead the way.
"The knowledge that I had in supply chain is what I used to help find the drugs to help my daughter," Bray said.
She went back to basics to find the drugs her daughter needed and began calling 1-800 numbers. She found that the lack of drugs came down to one aspect most of the time.
"It can be as small as communication," Bray said. "We have helped in shortages where something happened where a phone number changed to the ordering process or something changed in the ordering process and when the hospital goes to order the drug, the person on the other line picks up and says oh we don't have that."
She found the drugs her daughter needed but knew there were so many other families just like hers.
"In the end, I was haunted in the knowledge that the shortage wasn't over. There were still children waiting. There were still parents hearing the words that I heard," Bray said.
Thus was born Angels for Change, a nonprofit helping families find the drugs in short supply that they need.
One of those helped is Laura Davis in Pennsylvania. Her 15-year-old son was diagnosed with T cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia in January 2020.
"It came out of the blue," Davis said. "Two days prior he was running five miles a day. He was exercising. He was weightlifting. He was playing football. Just got off of a football season actually."
She said she felt lost when she was told the drug her son needed to survive was limited.
"I felt helpless, but I knew that I was going to find it some way, but I was confused. I didn't know where to start," Davis said.
A pharmaceutical company connected the two moms and helped Davis' son get the medication he needed.
"We needed quite a few vials of the medication over 100 and we didn't know if we were going to find it, but she really did. She found all of them," Davis said.
Again, in her case finding the medication came down to communication. She said the pharmaceutical company and Bray worked with the drugs' distributing company to find people who bought the medication but no longer needed it. They sold the medication back to the hospital, who then, in turn, sold it, allowing Davis' son to receive the treatment he needed.
He is still undergoing chemotherapy but will return to school next week.
In the year and a half since its inception, Bray and her volunteer of angels as she calls them have helped 50 families across the globe, but the work is far from over.
"Our next phase in Angels for Change is we're already working within the pharmaceutical supply chain within our whole health system supply chain to proactively solve shortages before they happen," Bray said. "I believe in the goodness of people. I believe in the power of people working together when called to action to solve problems."
Angels for Change is self-funded and runs solely on a volunteer basis. For more information, click here.