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Owners of Metronome Coffee grateful for lifesaving, family-centered care

Hazel and her mother aren't strangers to medical emergencies.

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By Laura McDonald

Josh and Gretchen Boyt created Metronome Coffee in the heart of Tacoma seven years ago.

“We chose the name ‘Metronome’ because it means knowing the beat of your own heart,” Josh explains.

What happened two years later is something Josh describes as destiny.

In 2013, Gretchen lost consciousness in a busy Costco parking lot.

“All of a sudden I got light-headed, and the next thing I knew, I woke up in the emergency department,” Gretchen recalls.

When Gretchen arrived at the emergency room, her heart was beating at a dangerously low 20-30 beats per minute. Doctors determined that she has Long QT-3 syndrome: a rare heart condition that causes sudden, uncontrollable arrhythmias (the rhythm of a heart).

Most people pass away at night and in their sleep from Long QT-3. But Gretchen was saved by community members and first responders who helped her get to the hospital.

At age 27, she had to have surgery to implant a pacemaker and defibrillator into her chest: her own personal metronome.

Gretchen’s heart scare wasn’t the family’s first health emergency.

Their youngest daughter, Hazel, was rushed to Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital by ambulance when she was just a year old.

One morning, Josh walked into Hazel’s room to find her wide awake, but lying completely still and unresponsive.

“She couldn’t stand or sit up. I thought she was gone forever,” Josh says.

The care team at Mary Bridge suspected that Hazel had a pediatric stroke before she was born that caused hemiplegia — weakness in one side of her body. Additionally, the family learned she had a blood clotting disorder.

Josh and Gretchen were fearful and worried for Hazel’s future, but they were quickly reassured when they met Mary Bridge neurologist Steven Phillips, MD.

“When Dr. Phillips came to talk to us for the first time, the first thing he did was address me,” Gretchen says. “He said, ‘First of all, this isn’t your fault. It’s nothing you did wrong. Secondly, she will be a great, contributing member of society.’ He said the most important thing would be that they treat Hazel no differently than they would have before.”

Today, the Boyt family continues to visit Mary Bridge twice per week for Hazel’s physical and occupational therapy appointments, in between taking her to ballet practices (she performed in The Nutcracker last December).

Hazel’s big sister, Finley, often attends the appointments with her. She likes to “see Hazel in action” and Gretchen appreciates that the nurses always find ways to make Finley feel special too.

The family also makes regular visits to the Mary Bridge Good Samaritan Children’s Therapy Unit (CTU) for Hazel’s orthotics fittings, where she gets a custom brace for her right arm and left leg.

“With something like this where there’s so much unknown, it’s hard to feel like you’re doing anything right,” Josh says. “The Mary Bridge staff help us learn how to support Hazel. We know we’re not left by ourselves to try to figure it out.”

Josh and Gretchen look for ways to give back and support the Tacoma community, like attending the annual Mary Bridge Children’s Festival of Trees Gala, which benefits Mary Bridge.

“We started Metronome before any of this happened, but it all happened for a reason,” Josh explains.

The shop has become a popular hangout spot along 6th Avenue, so rooted in the community that when Gretchen’s heart problem occurred, the Metronome staff and community threw a fundraiser to help the Boyts pay for the medical expenses.

“Our heart and soul is in this place – literally,” Josh says. “We’re invested in this community and now our mission is written on our own hearts.”

Support Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital

Many of the treatments Hazel receives at both Mary Bridge and the CTU wouldn’t be possible without donor contributions. Make a donation to Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital

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