I attended a media trip to St. Jude in May 2017, during which my airfare, hotel, and meals were covered.
September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month, and last May I had the privilege of visiting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. I had grown up seeing the commercials for St. Jude, but I had no idea what an AMAZING resource this institution is for pediatric cancer patients and their entire families.
No child should die in the dawn of life.”
Founded in 1962 by Danny Thomas, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital has invented treatments that have raised the childhood cancer survival rates from 20% to 80%! The best part of this lifesaving care is that patients and their families NEVER receive a bill from St. Jude. When your child is battling cancer the only thing you should have to focus on is your child and their health.
Not only do patients at St. Jude get lifesaving care, they are provided with so much more. There is housing for patients who are at St. Jude for care, whether it’s short-term (Tri Delta Place), mid-term (Ronald McDonald House) or long-term (Target House). While visiting St. Jude, we had the privilege of serving ice cream to patients and their families at the Tri Delta Place. It was incredibly moving to see the direct effects of cancer on these families, but even more so, the hope that their care at St. Jude has provided. I’ve said many times since my visit that I hope I never find myself in need of childhood cancer care, but if I do, I would without a doubt want to be at St. Jude.
During our visit, we also toured Target House which is where long-term patients stay while undergoing treatment. For example, the treatment protocol for leukemia usually lasts about 2 years. Families can stay at Target House in their apartments for the entire duration of treatment. This house was AMAZING. From the beautiful playroom and teen room to the Disney Pixar entertainment room and music rooms, they don’t miss a single detail! They even personalize the bedroom decor for each child based on his/her favorite hobbies or characters!
In addition to touring the various facilities, we had the opportunity to hear from medical professionals who treat St. Jude patients and even from a former patient who is now a new mom! One of my favorite presentations was from one of the 18 child life specialists at the hospital. Because cancer treatment is physically and mentally grueling for these patients, child life specialists do everything they can to help the children deal with their treatment; whether it’s learning to tolerate certain medical procedures or just playing like a child, the child life specialists are there to help. I love that they also help with siblings since it can be a very difficult time for them.
One of the most moving presentations was a short video from Amy Love, the music therapist at St. Jude. In addition to allowing children to enjoy music in its many forms, Amy helps grieving families set the child’s heartbeat to a song. Families choose a song with special meaning and Amy records it to the beat of their child’s heart, so they have a keepsake that they can listen to even when their child is gone…
“During ultrasounds, the heartbeat is the first sound that parents hear in relation to their child. It is a representation of life and it is the rhythm that we carry within each of us.”
Whether it’s hosting a special prom complete with hair and make-up appointments to putting a child through school (St. Jude has their own accredited school!), St. Jude makes sure that no patient misses their childhood experience and any accompanying milestones.
Please consider making a donation to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in honor of Childhood Cancer Awareness month. I was fortunate to have the first-hand opportunity to see the wonderful work this hospital does, and I hope you will help them with a donation. You can click HERE to make one now. It costs $2.4 million dollars a day just to operate the hospital and 75% of that budget comes from public contributions! That all adds up and allows the hospital to continue its mission to defeat childhood cancer.