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I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver - Maya Angelou
The holidays are a simultaneous blend of chaos, happiness, indulgence, and reflection. Chaos because of all the shopping, crowds, parties, family and work demands. Happiness because we get to go to parties, we get to spend time with friends and family, and the lights and decorations are beautiful. Indulgence, that’s pretty self-explanatory. Reflection because we tend to think about all we’ve accomplished during the past year, or what we’d like to change for the new year, and how lucky we are to have our health, so we can enjoy all that the holidays have to offer. This part is particularly meaningful if someone you care about isn’t healthy.
Having a family member who is sick or hospitalized during the holidays changes the whole dynamic. We don’t go to parties, we’re not indulgent, we don’t spend much time socializing, and we’re hesitant to make goals for the new year. Instead, we obsess about the illness. So, rather than being a festive time the holidays become a time of sadness and hardship.
This is especially true when that hospitalized family member is your child. Trust me I’ve been there. When my daughter was two years old, she was hospitalized for the entire month of December. So yeah, we didn’t have a very merry Christmas that year. The hospital tried to make the holidays special for the kids and families stuck there. They had parties, they had Santa Clause, they had elves, they had carolers, they had Menorahs, they had decorations, and they had presents. Despite their efforts, there wasn’t a lot of smiling or laughter. Anywhere.
Instead, there were lots of tears. Tears because it is REALLY tough seeing a child too sick to open the present next to them; or too tired to leave their bed to go to the party down the hall; or to drugged to know that Santa Clause is in their room. There were also the desperate, heartbroken tears as parents discovered that their health insurance would only pay for the next two days of hospitalization, or that the Doctors could not figure out what was wrong with their child. Or worse, they did figure out what was wrong, and the prognosis wasn’t good. Not a joyful experience.
Although that particular holiday was difficult for our family, I consider us one of the lucky ones. We came home with a healthy daughter, we had health insurance that covered almost everything, we had a great support system, so we never felt alone, and we had amazing doctors and nurses taking care of our child. But, I will never forget the kids and families we shared that hospital holiday with. Especially those who were not as lucky as we were.
Because of our experience and those kids, our family has chosen to donate to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital every chance we have. Most people are familiar with St. Jude’s Hospital. They help sick kids and they have a lot of support form celebrities, right? Yes, but they are so much more than that. Let me count the ways…
1) Did you know that families never receive a bill from St. Jude for any treatment, travel, housing, or food costs? When it comes to payment, St. Jude does take insurance but stops billing the insurance company once they’ve reached 50% of a child's lifetime maximum coverage. After that the family and the insurance company pay nothing - this includes co-pays and deductibles. In situations where the family doesn't have insurance, the child will be treated, but the family will never be billed for any service.
2) Children continue with their education, even while undergoing treatment. The hospital and housing facilities have onsite k-12 schools and St. Jude’s teachers work closely with the child's home school so that the child can follow the same curriculum and not fall behind.
3) Once a child is a patient at St. Jude’s they are patients for life. That means that once a child is discharged, the hospital follows them for 10 years, or until they turn 18, whichever comes first. At that point, the patient can enter a program and they will be checked every three years. This allows doctors to watch for any adult-onset health problems that may have resulted from the patient’s previous illness or treatment.
4) St. Jude’s has an incredible prosthesis program. Generally, insurance companies only cover one prosthetic limb in a patient’s lifetime. So, if a child requires a prosthesis as a result of their illness, that child will eventually outgrow that one limb and the family will need to cover the cost of a replacement. St. Jude recognizes the burden this puts on families and provides a new prosthesis as the child outgrows an old one. Once they have reached adulthood, or stopped growing, they are fitted with a permanent one. At no cost.
5) With more than 85 research labs on the premises St. Jude’s is making a huge difference in survival rates. Treatments developed by St. Jude researchers have increased the childhood cancer survival rate from 20% in 1962 to more than 80% today. And, they freely share their research with any doctor or research facility who needs it.
6) Running this hospital isn’t cheap. It costs approximately $1 billion a year to operate St. Jude’s. And despite corporate partnerships and donations guess where most of the funding comes from? Individual donors like me. And do you know what the average donation is? $34. Every dollar makes a difference.
7) St. Jude’s believes all children should live as normal a childhood as possible even when they’re battling life-threatening diseases. That’s why most of their patients are treated as outpatients and stay in one of three housing facilities specifically designed for families of children with life threatening diseases. These facilities can house up to 300 patients and construction of another housing facility began in 2018.
8) St. Jude has a 4 star rating from Charity Navigator. St. Jude is a one of a kind hospital. They are the angel that so many families of sick and dying children need and I’m proud to be one of their supporters. If you’d like to help this amazing organization continue their life saving research you can donate at StJude.com, or you can shop at one of the following retailers and donate at the register: Best Buy, Domino’s, Kmart, HomeGoods, Kay Jewelers, LOFT and Ann Taylor, Williams Sonoma, Chili’s Grill & Bar, AutoZone, New York & Company, Christopher & Banks, Carnival Cruise Line, Dollar General, Brooks Brothers, Marshalls, Destination XL, and Stage Stores or anywhere you see the “Thanks and Giving” display.
This holiday season be thankful for what you have. Especially if you have your health.
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