Jackie was born and raised in Bronxville, N.Y. Her interest in science and medicine led her to pursue an undergraduate degree in biology from Catholic University, where she earned her B.S. in 1987. Yet, it was her desire to care for people that inspired her to pursue a degree in nursing, earning a second B.S. in 1990.
Her clinical nursing training occurred at several of the Washington D.C. area hospitals ─ Walter Reed, Washington Hospital Center, and D.C. General. During that period, the main focus for training and research was on babies who were born to mothers who were addicted to drugs and therefore were born addicted themselves, as well as HIV/AIDS patients.
Upon receiving her nursing degree and license as a registered nurse, Jackie returned to her hometown and began working on the Telemetry Unit at Stamford Hospital. This floor cared for patients who had experienced cardiac or cardiac-related events who were not required to be in the Intensive Care Unit. Telemetry is the process by which a patient can wear a heart monitor that allows the heart rate and rhythm to appear on a monitor at the nurses’ station, which allows the patient much more freedom to move about and to rehab more quickly.
The part of nursing that Jackie enjoyed most was “nursing,” or true patient care and interaction. During the time period while Jackie was in training, there were no computers and there was no Internet to help nurses do their job, so for Jackie, nursing required skills like listening to her patients and communicating with them to determine what was really wrong.
For Jackie, nursing was a calling, not a job. Her favorite part of taking care of patients was the five minutes after she bathed them while they sat in a chair so that she could change their bedlinens. It was during this time that she was able to have some true “quality time” to talk with her patients and find out how they really were doing, not just physically, but emotionally and mentally, too. Her focus and passion was making a difference in patients’ lives then, and she still feels the same way about her clients today.
While working at Stamford Hospital, she met her husband, a resident in the internal medicine program, and they were married in 1993. Two short years later, their first son was born in 1995, but Jackie’s love of caring for her patients kept her in nursing for a little while longer. Then, in July 1996, their son was diagnosed with Type I diabetes, which was totally unheard of at the time in an 18-month-old toddler. At the same time, Jackie was pregnant with their second child, an exciting time for her family but also an overwhelming one as she grappled with the complex issues of a toddler with juvenile diabetes. As things begin to level out, their family grew by one again in 1998.
Her nursing experience helped her care for her son, and in 1999, at the age of 4, he became the youngest child (at the time), to use an insulin pump to manage his diabetes. Because of her nurse’s training and her desire to make a difference in both her son’s life and the lives of others to follow behind him, she spent a substantial amount of time advocating for him in the Stamford schools, where she found an extremely receptive audience in the nurses and administration. She began teaching the school nurses about the newest technology to manage diabetes.
She successfully advocated for her son and, at the same time, educated others on the concept of letting the child with diabetes check his own blood sugar while staying in the classroom. The reasons for this were two-fold: First, it was safer to have the child check his/her own blood sugar at a desk then have a snack if the blood sugar was low than to make the child walk down the hall, alone or with another child, to the nurse’s station. (If your blood sugar is low, you have a hard time thinking and acting.) Second, it is important that the child miss as little class time as possible. This process would allow a child to check his/her blood sugar and treat the high or low in about 60 seconds. Sending a child to the nurse and treating there would cause substantial loss of time from class.
Diabetes was a part of her son, but she didn’t want it to define who he was. He needed to learn, as did everyone, that he had to deal with problems quickly and efficiently then move on. She believed that her job as a mother was to prepare her children to survive in the world and in another time as the world changed. If she hadn’t fought for him, encouraged him to see past his disease, and educated others, he would not have survived at all.
As Jackie’s interaction and education about diabetes continued to expand as both a parent and an advocate, she became more involved in organizations and avenues surrounding diabetes research. In 1998, she became involved with a camp in Greenwich called The Rainbow Club. She quickly transitioned from attendee to a more involved role in the adult education portion, where she discovered that there was promising research and advancement in diabetes that could lead to a real cure. This caused Jackie to spring into action.
She and a friend soon arranged to meet with the researcher at the Massachusetts General Hospital lab where they explained their discovery and evidence supporting a potential cure. Jackie and her friend scoured the research and reached out to other scientists and organizations in a full critical analysis of this research and concluded it was the best and only research that had a real potential to cure their children.
As a result, Jackie and her friend then founded the “Bike the Miles” event. The two families rode their bikes from Cove Island Park in Stamford to the lab in Charlestown, Mass. This was the beginning of something that would help many children way beyond her son. The event has evolved each year, including collaboration with Lee Iacocca and the Iacocca Foundation, and has raised just over $1 million in just four years. Currently, this research in Phase II of the human trials.
But Jackie’s quest for helping others was not over, and in 2007, she began law school at Quinnipiac University with the intention of representing physicians in medical malpractice cases. She attended full-time during the day, while her kids were in school.
Then, on September 6, 2007, her youngest daughter, on her 9th birthday, was also diagnosed with diabetes. Once again, Jackie and her family went into “fit-it” mode and handled the new diagnosis with dedication and perseverance.
This diagnosis did not prevent Jackie from completing her law degree, and in 2010 (on time), she graduated and was hired full-time by Wocl Leydon, LLC, after a brief internship. During this internship, she quickly realized that the people and culture at Wocl Leydon were the people and culture she wanted to work with. So rather than pursuing a career defending doctors, she decided that serving as a patient advocate was her calling in the practice of law.
What Jackie found out quickly was that the partners made it very clear that Wocl Leydon is more like a family than a law firm. The office manager, Gerry, has been there for over 50 years, and only one or two other staffers have ever left, and even one of those came back.
Since her kids were in middle school and high school when she started, she knew she needed a job that that would allow her some flexibility. She need to be the mom she wanted to be and be the lawyer she wanted to be. Being an attorney in most firms doesn’t allow that to happen. But, she soon found out that she wasn’t working at just any law firm and she wasn’t going to be just any attorney. Working at Wocl Leydon, where family is so important, Jackie was able to work the schedule she needed to work in order to be with her children and help her clients. It was a win-win all around.
Eight years later, her son has graduated from Virginia Tech with a degree in mechanical engineering and is working in his field in Roanoke, Va. Her eldest daughter graduated in the spring of 2018, magna cum laude, from Virginia Tech’s Pamplin School of Business, where she double majored in finance and accounting with a minor in international business. Her youngest daughter finished her second year in the same business school at Virginia Tech and is majoring in marketing and finance.
Now that her children are young adults, she only has to help them continue to advocate for themselves. With her lifelong history of advocating for others, first as a nurse, then as a mom, then as a mom with children with diabetes, advocating for clients is truly second-nature. As a nurse, she was educated and trained to care for the person and not judge, particularly in the environment of AIDS and crack-addicted babies. Her life’s mission is to help, to protect, and to care for. She doesn’t have a job, she has a passion and a career, and she loves it.
Today, she and her husband are “empty nesters” still living and working in Stamford where they started and raised their family. When she is not with her Wocl Leydon family, she enjoys playing many sports such as tennis, swimming, biking, running, and participating in triathlons. Since she has raised three children who attended/are attending Va Tech, she is an avid Hokie fan and enjoys attending Hokie football games. And now that all three of her human children are out of the house, she and her husband enjoy their two “four-legged children,” their Siberian Huskies.
Because she also played sports in college (a little while ago, back in the ’80s), she has the competitive instincts that are best suited for litigation. And, since she has always been a caregiver and an advocate, it is her nature to be an advocate for the plaintiffs who are the victims of medical malpractice, unsafe product injuries, and complex personal injury cases. And, because working at a firm that values its employees and puts its clients first is extremely important, Wocl Leydon’s tradition of long-standing employees and client-centric focus have always felt like home.
When asked what makes the “family” at Wocl Leydon special, Jackie says, “Our client service is what makes us different. Other firms delegate to assistants a lot of the work that attorneys do here, especially client communications. We talk to our clients on a regular basis.” It is clear that Jackie has found the perfect fit for her life in her “family” at Wocl Leydon and her life’s work in protecting those who have been injured.