MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. --
After a seven-year stretch at the Pentagon, Michael Blumenthal was given the opportunity for a change. It would mean having more hands-on experience with his work and, more importantly, a work-life balance that allowed him much-needed time with his family.
Michael and his wife Kelly have two young sons, Mason, 4, and Finley “Finn” Noah, almost 3. Mason is a healthy boy who loves cars or anything with wheels. Finn loves sharks, animals and anything his big brother loves. However, little Finn was born with serious medical issues that require frequent trips to the doctor and have resulted in a number of surgeries and hospital stays in his short life. He was born with Congenital Heart Defects, or CHD, which is an abnormality in the heart that occurs after birth. He also has a lung defect and an intestinal issue.
When Michael came to Marine Corps Systems Command last summer as a financial management analyst on the Joint Project Manager for Protection Team, he was aware of the strain his family requirements might put on the team. Finn was scheduled for his second open heart surgery just months after Michael’s arrival and would require a lengthy recovery.
Luckily, his worries were put at ease because of the assistance, love and support from his new colleagues on the JPM P Team.
“We didn't want Michael coming onboard with any concerns about taking time off or using an alternate work schedule in order to support Finn's medical appointments or surgeries,” said Jennifer Scafone, deputy director of Finance for JPM P. “In order to achieve our mission to the fullest extent possible, we need to ensure our workforce is happy and healthy, both physically and mentally. Here at Marine Corps Systems Command people are our biggest asset, and we want our staff to know that.”
Embarking on a big career change so close to his son’s major surgery was worrisome for Michael, but his team helped him through the transition. When Michael first joined the JPM P Team, they surprised him with T-shirts that read, “I love Finn” with a heartrate line. They had a team bonding celebration at a Potomac Nationals baseball game and wore the shirts to show their support for Finn.
“It truly made me feel good that they were invested in my family and me,” Michael said.
The acquisition command’s support helped ease Michael’s transition into his new position and the organization, he said.
“With a true Marine mentality of never giving up and being there for others no matter what, the command has given us a sense of unity, peace and community,” said Kelly Blumenthal, Finn’s mother. “Because of the support they provide our family and the uplifting work environment that surrounds my husband, it helps us give back to the community and keep the circle of giving going.”
While the Blumenthal family prepared for Finn’s upcoming surgery, they found support in the MCSC family.
“My team didn’t tell me how much time I should take off of work or pressure me with possible deadlines because they knew my family was going through a rough time,” said Michael. “My career is important to me, and my team trusted me to get the job done, but stepped up to cover the workload when needed to let me take care of and focus on my family.”
The JPM P Team and MCSC value Michael and his expertise in finance and budgeting, which is why they found it vital to give Michael the flexibility he and his family needed, Scafone said.
“Work-life balance is an integral part of a positive work environment,” she said. “We want to offer our support to the Blumenthal family in any way we can.”
This September, Finn underwent his second heart surgery. Expected to take at least seven hours, the miracle baby surprised his doctors, and the actual heart repair only took 37 minutes. After the surgery, Finn had a normal heart rate and oxygen level, and he was trying to stand up in his crib just two hours later.
“When you first find out your baby is sick, all of the negative thoughts and feelings like despair and devastation consume you,” said Kelly. “It was extremely tough because we couldn’t see our baby as a diagnosis–he was our baby who had a heartbeat along with 10 fingers and toes. We focused on our faith and never gave up hope that Finn’s doctors would save his life.”
The MCSC team was behind the family the whole way. On the day of his surgery, the team held a prayer circle and sent a group text to the Blumenthals to let the family know they were thinking about them. The team even dropped off a “welcome home” basket along with gifts for Finn and Mason. The Ground Combat Support System-Marine Corps Team also sent a gift basket to the family after they had followed Finn’s story through the news and his Facebook page, Prayers for Finn.
“It meant the world to us to have the command’s support through this difficult time,” said Kelly. “They treated us like family, and for that, we will always be grateful.”
Since his surgery, little Finn has not experienced any complications. However, he still has a long road ahead of him. He has to go to Pennsylvania every four to six weeks for follow-up appointments with his heart specialist, physical therapy one to two times a week and see a cardiologist at least once a year. Finn still has a feeding tube in his stomach, and he will have to take medication for the rest of his life to help his heart slow down. The Blumenthals hope that when Finn is in his twenties and may need a heart valve replacement, there will be more discoveries and technological advancements for CHD.
“We’ve realized the common thread in everything we experience is that there’s always going to be light at the end of the tunnel, and focusing on even the tiniest glimmers of hope is what keeps us going,” said Kelly.
Kelly says she and Michael refuse to leave Finn in a bubble and want him to experience life to the fullest, making each day an adventure. He has worn a tuxedo more times than his dad, flown in a helicopter, went to prom and rode an elephant.
“Everyone has something or someone they want to get home to and something they’re fighting for, whether it’s internally or externally,” said Michael. “To get words of encouragement from Marines about how they admire the way I’m able to handle myself in the office in regards to everything I’m going through with Finn is amazing. Marines experience the toughest situations, so getting a compliment from them means a lot to me.”