I heard a pretty incredible story on Friday. Some of the details are fuzzy because I didn’t write things down immediately, but I can give you the basic gist of it. There was a young girl who was brought to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. I believe she was about 6 years old. She had a disease that didn’t have a solid treatment yet. The doctors and researchers at St. Jude worked as hard as they could to find a way to take care of her, but they continued to be thrown off by the disease. What they did come up with was a treatment that was very experimental and didn’t have a high probability for the young girl’s survival. It came down to her to decide if she wanted to go along with it. When everything was explained, she decided to go along with it. The main reason she said was because she knew that even if she died, the doctors would be able to use the information from her to help other children in the future.
Sadly the procedure did take her life, but the doctors also found a lot information that did help them better the treatment. In a bizarre twist, her younger brother ended up being diagnosed with the same disease. The doctors were able to cure him thanks in part to the things they learned from her treatment.
I went to Memphis to visit the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital as part of the Country Cares annual seminar. Many friends of mine that had been to the hospital told me my experience would be nothing short of life changing. They all said it. I can’t even begin to tell you how right they were.
I’ve been very familiar with the amazing discoveries and advancements the doctors, and researchers at St. Jude have discovered. Being there first hand to experience the passion and energy they have took my understanding to a whole new level. These people put every ounce of their energy into finding cures for these kids, and they do it with the biggest smiles on their faces. They are the true definition of people that love what they do.
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My tour guide, Shaun, said he came from Cleveland where he worked for a billion dollar bank. He said he knew there was a CEO for the bank, but that person was nothing more than a name on a paycheck to him. No one ever saw him. One of the first days Shaun was working at St. Jude, he saw the CEO sitting in the cafeteria eating lunch. Not only was he sitting there but he also got up to help a single mother dealing with three other children as she struggled with her own emotions. That was one of the moments that proved to Shaun that he made the right decision to join St. Jude.
I think the biggest surprise to me was how aware the children are of their situation. I walked by a mom and her daughter when they were sitting on a couch near the cafeteria. The girl couldn’t have been more than 6 or 7 years old. She looked at her mom and asked, “Where are we going next?” The mom replied, “We are heading to oncology,” to which the daughter said, with a smile, “Great!” I don’t think I knew what oncology was until I got to college, and here’s this little girl excited to see her doctors. It’s further proof of the wonderful things that go on in Memphis. The doctors and staff keep the children very aware of what’s going on, but they never let it bring them down.
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St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital started it’s mission in 1962 when the survival rate for the most common form of childhood cancer (acute lymphoblastic leukemia) was at 4 percent. Thanks to the advancements made due to the generous donations from people like you, that same survival rate has climbed to 94 percent today. If I hadn’t seen them with my own two eyes, I wouldn’t believe the achievements they’ve accomplished.