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Just Cause

Maybe I inherited it, or maybe I learned it, but I tend to react to certain things with perhaps an unhealthy dose of cynicism. When I heard that as part of the Brizo Blogger 19 reunion, we were spending a day at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, I reacted as expected. Eighty captive bloggers. An obvious way to get the word out and broaden St. Jude's charitable base. But after spending the day at St. Jude, I couldn't be more convinced of a worthier cause.

      

            Brizo Staff Welcomes Blogger 19 to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital's Danny Thomas-ALSAC Pavilion

Today I'll share with you St. Jude, the cause. In another post, I'll share with you Target House, a facility we toured that provides housing and community for families requiring a long residential stay while their children undergo treatment at St. Jude.

History of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

Danny Thomas, the famous entertainer of the mid-20th Century, founded the hospital to fulfill a vow he made to St. Jude, the patron saint of lost causes. With assistance from local businessmen, fellow entertainers and people like Danny of Arabic descent (Danny's heritage was Lebanese), Danny raised the necessary funds to open St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in 1962.

Danny's dream was that "no child should die in the dawn of life." St. Jude strives to fulfill Danny's dream with its mission to discover cures and prevention for catastrophic childhood diseases through research and treatment. No child will ever be denied treatment at St. Jude based on race, creed, religion or ability to pay.

St. Jude By The Numbers

  • Daily operating costs of St. Jude -- $1.8 million
  • Average inpatient stay per day -- $6,772
  • Average outpatient visit per day -- $3,716
  • One day of intravenous chemotherapy -- $1,474
  • Standard treatment for one child battling acute lymphoblastic leukemia -- $528,621
  • Average cost of a bone marrow transplant -- $168,658
  • Average cost for brain tumor radiation treatment -- $100,000
  • Average number of patients treated by St. Jude in one year -- 7,800
  • Amount a family pays for treatment at St. Jude -- ZERO

Astounding! No one ever pays for treatment at St. Jude! That just blew my mind. Especially when I saw the facilities, heard from patients and their families about the care they received at St. Jude, and learned more about the advances in diagnosis and treatment made by St. Jude's scientists and researchers.

Meet Ian

Part of our visit to St. Jude included an opportunity to interact with patients and their families by assisting with an arts and crafts activity. I had signed up to help patients paint 4x4 ceramic tiles. That brought me face to face with a 6-year old boy named Ian and his parents. Ian was from Mexico and spoke no English. He had just finished his course of treatment. Once Ian's appetite returned, he and his parents would be headed home.

Without the disguise of a full head of hair, the contours of Ian's skull and the transparency of his skin revealed a shunt inserted to drain excess fluid from his brain. I've interacted with severely ill children on several occasions. For years, when I lived in New York, I visited a Ronald McDonald House on Halloween. And as a member of the Boston Children's Hospital League, I participate on Family Day when we host activities and provide entertainment for patients and their families. In these encounters, it's always so hard for me to look past the physical manifestations of childhood disease. The evidence is so blatant and heart-wrenching. Something that helped me with Ian was having 12-year-old Allison sit down at our table. Allison was at the hospital from Nicaragua for a check-up. It turned out that Allison had the same type of cancer as Ian. But now she is fully recovered. She was at the hospital for her yearly routine follow-up exam. Seeing Ian, hairless head and all, was so much easier knowing that he would soon be like Allison--a vibrant, healthy, normal child. With a full head of hair.

At the Forefront of Research and Treatment

In its 50 years, St. Jude has developed treatment protocols that have catapulted the survival rates for childhood cancers from less than 20 percent to 80 percent. In 1962, when St. Jude opened its doors, the survival rate for acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the most common type of childhood leukemia, was 4 percent. Today, that survival rate is 94 percent. Hearing this, I couldn't help but think about my first cousin, Lenny, who died in 1973 at age 20 of leukemia. If he were a teen today, his odds of recovering would be great due to the treament protocols developed at St. Jude.

How to Help

Almost three-quarters of St. Jude's operating funds come from private donations. Eighty-one cents of every fundraising dollar goes to support research and treatment at St. Jude.

For me, nothing could be more compelling than to know that the treatment St. Jude provides its patients -- some with the most deadly childhood diseases -- is completely free.

To host an event or volunteer, call 1-800-822-6344.

To donate by phone, call 1-800-805-5856.

To learn about making a legacy gift to St. Jude, call 1-800-830-8119.

For employer matching gifts, visit stjude.org/matchinggifts

To donate by mail, send to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, TN  38105 or visit stjude.org