If you follow me on Twitter, you might have noticed the past few days I’ve retweeted a bunch of things from the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. Specifically about why you should give to the Miracle Marathon.
A little background. Growing up, I wasn’t sick enough to be what I think of as a “sick kid” – always with a runny nose, or wheezing as I fumbled for my inhaler. I certainly wasn’t as sick as the classmate who underwent chemo and an eventual bone marrow transplant for leukemia, or my friend’s sister who was born with a heart defect that required multiple surgeries. But I wasn’t quite healthy, either.
I always had some phantom pain. I self-diagnosed a zillion sprains when I’d never actually injured myself. I know my friends, teachers and parents wrote me off as an attention-seeking kid. But when I was 14, after a several months of body-wide pain, I was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA). Fortunately the doctor put me on methotrexate and the pain went away. I had no lasting damage to my joints, and – thankfully – like the majority of kids with JRA, I outgrew it when I was 20.
But, during that same timeframe, I was also diagnosed with Papillary Thyroid Carcinoma, aka thyroid cancer. So at 16 I had my thyroid removed. Since then, I’ve had multiple body scans and doses of radioactive iodine. Thankfully, every scan shows nothing and of all the cancers out there, PTC has about the best prognosis of all of them.
So I think of myself not as someone who was a sick kid, but as someone who had health problems.
Years later, my beautiful little girl, MissA was born. I had placenta previa, which has a risk of the placenta rupturing and causing massive bleeding if you go into labor. So I had a scheduled c-section at 37 weeks. So when MissA was born, she had gunk in her lungs that normally is squeezed out during labor and childbirth. She was born at Froedtert Hospital, and was shortly transferred to the NICU at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, which is attached to Froedtert. It was scary for my husband and me, but we knew she was in good hands at Children’s. And they assured us that after they got her through this little blip, she’d be fine, with no lasting health problems. One of the hardest things I’ve done in my life was go home from the hospital without my baby girl. Fortunately, she came home 3 days later, after a week in the NICU. But during our short experience there, what really impressed me was not just how well they took care of my daughter, but how well they took care of my husband and me, and of our parents. They made the experience as painless and low-stress as it could possibly be.
1 year and 364 years later, MissA’s little brother, G-Man, joined our family (yes, my kids’ birthdays are a day apart). I had another scheduled c-section. And starting a trend that continues, of wanting to do everything his big sister does, my son had gunk in his lungs and was admitted to the NICU. It was a lot less stressful for us this time since we knew he would be OK. Again, the staff, especially the nurses, took as good of care of us as they did my son. And what really impressed me was how much they went out of their way to make sure my daughter was comfortable. One nurse spent almost an hour helping MissA get comfortable with first just looking at and later holding her new baby brother, even though he was connected to all kinds of wires. When they found out her birthday was the day after G was born, the nurses got her a balloon from the gift shop and gave her a teddy bear. It was one of the most touching things I’ve ever seen.
Fortunately, the doctors were right. Now 17 months and 3 1/2, G-Man and MissA are perfectly healthy.
This is all my long-winded way of saying I have a special place in my heart for children’s hospitals, and especially for Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. In addition to my kids’ experiences at CHW, my sister is finishing up her 3rd year of residency there, and next year will be a Chief Resident. I also work at Froedtert, and have cause at least once a week to walk through CHW. I’m always touched by the great care I see while also so thankful that (so far) my kids haven’t had to go back.
So, what’s my point? Every Thursday and Friday before Memorial Day for the past 16 years, the local classic rock station, WKLH 96.5, has the Dave & Carole Miracle Marathon for Children’s Hospital. The usual morning show hosts broadcast for 2 days straight – fueled only by coffee and compassion – sharing the stories of the kids this hospital serves. They talk to the parents, the doctors and most of all the kids. These brave little warriors share their stories. Dave & Carole bring back some of the same families year after year. Sometimes it’s the parents returning, even if their children didn’t make it. They sit in the lobby of CHW to broadcast, and nearby is a phone bank of volunteers. You can make a 1-time donation, or join the Miracle Club with a monthly donation. The stories are touching, sometimes hopeful, sometimes heartbreaking, always inspiring.
I joined the Miracle Club a few years before my kids were born, when the idea of having kids someday was just starting to form in my mind. When my motivation was more abstract, more related to my own experiences as a kid than the idea that someday my own hypothetical kids would be patients at CHW. And I admit, when they told us MissA needed to go to the NICU, in the back of my mind it registered that I was glad I’d made that small investment in the care my baby girl would receive. My $25 each month doesn’t make a huge impact on its own. But my money, along with all the other people who donate to the Miracle Club and the Miracle Marathon, combine to add over $1 million each year to CHW’s budget. That goes a long way toward improving the care there. It buys couches for stressed parents to relax on. It pays the salary of Child Life Specialists who help kids adjust to having a serious illness. It funds the lab of the geneticist who does groundbreaking research that solves the puzzle of a seemingly untreatable illness. It’s part of the mix that makes CHW the 4th best children’s hospital in the country.
It buys a balloon as a birthday present for a little girl whose newborn brother is in the NICU.
This blog isn’t asking you to donate to CHW and the Miracle Marathon (although by all means, if you’re inclined, please do). I just wanted to acknowledge this amazing thing this radio station does every year. They don’t have to. But it’s part of the reason they’re my go-to radio station – that and playing awesome music.
I know my little blog is barely a blip on the internet radar, but I still wanted to give Dave and Carole a shout out for this incredible thing they do each year. Most mornings they make me laugh, but during the Miracle Marathon they also make me ache, they make me cry, they make me love.
Most of all, they inspire me.