Down to the wire for Children’s Hospital


A 2005 photo of Olivia Jones and her father, Kevin Jones. Olivia received a heart transplant in 2005 at Children's National Medical Center. Today she's a healthy 8-year-old, just one of many kids to receive life-saving treatment at the hospital. (Courtesy of Children's National Medical Center)
John Kelly
Columnist January 2, 2013

If this year’s fundraising campaign for Children’s National Medical Center was a patient, I’d be worried about his vital signs. He’ll survive — any amount of money we can raise is beneficial — but his breathing is shallow, his blood pressure weak. It’s his quality of life I’m worried about.

The campaign ends Friday. So far, readers have donated about $196,555, a tremendous amount of money, of course, but noticeably short of our $400,000 goal. If you were planning on donating, please, do it today. Just think: If 10,000 people donate $20 each, we’ll be close to our goal.

John Kelly writes "John Kelly's Washington," a daily look at Washington's less-famous side. Born in Washington, John started at The Post in 1989 as deputy editor in the Weekend section. View Archive

If you have already donated, you have my sincere thanks, along with the gratitude of the Children’s patients you’ve helped. Remember that your gift goes toward the hospital’s uncompensated care fund, which is set aside to pay the medical bills of underinsured patients.

For the past eight weeks, I’ve been taking you behind the scenes at Children’s, which has been treating youngsters since 1871. We met Caleb Jonathan Lazar, a sickly newborn from Montgomery Village who was rushed by helicopter to Children’s. (An update: Caleb went home on Christmas Eve.) We met Trevor Vardy, a Crofton 2-year-old who didn’t let a brain tumor slow him down. We met Agusta Arnarsdóttir, a little girl from Iceland born with a disfiguring and dangerous birthmark.

We met Elle , Murphy and Perla — trained therapy dogs who put nervous children at ease.

Miracles happen every day at Children’s Hospital. As Nick Lee of Hagerstown, Md., told me, “If it wasn’t for Children’s, we wouldn’t have a son.” He and his wife, Abbey, thank the hospital every day for saving the life of their little boy, Jonah, who at first stumped doctors with his mysterious assortment of symptoms.

Many of you have a very personal connection to the hospital.

Diana Acker of Oak Hill made a donation in appreciation of Mary Donofrio and Dilip Nath, the cardiologist and surgeon, respectively, who treated her grandson Rhys Damon. She and Rhys’s parents, Alicia and Rob, are also grateful to Children’s social worker Caroline Stallings and the entire cardiac intensive-care unit and heart-kidney unit. Diana enclosed a photo of Rhys, now 15 months, looking very natty in a bow tie (probably a clip-on, but still . . .).

When John Miller’s son was just 5 days old, he was losing weight. “We took him to Children’s Hospital,” John wrote. “They solved the problem, and today he is a 200-pound man. We will be forever grateful.”

Sarah Capponi and her sister Jean Lee each made a donation. Jean is almost 70 now, but when she was 5, she was stricken by infectious polyneuritis, a severe paralysis that left her unable to move anything but her head.

“The doctors told our parents she would probably not survive and, in the unlikely event she did, she would be confined to a wheelchair,” Sarah wrote. “However, Children’s is about not giving up hope and about celebrating happy ever afters.”

After a month of care, Jean was released, able to walk, but with a slight limp and some special shoes. Over time, she shed both the limp and the shoes.

Finally, a reader named Bill wrote: “I always meant to donate but I had a recent surgery and was so grateful for my insurance I wanted more then ever to help those, especially kids, without insurance.”

Won’t you do the same? To make a tax-deductible donation, go to www.childrensnational.org/washingtonpost or send a check (payable to Children’s Hospital) to Washington Post Campaign, P.O. Box 17390, Baltimore, Md. 21297-1390.

Weight watchers

The holiday season reminded Michael Malesardi and his sister Patty Evanko of the trips the Arlington family used to take downtown in the early 1970s to shop at Woodward & Lothrop, see the window displays and eat in the store’s buffet restaurant.

That last part wasn’t much fun. Apparently, kids were charged by weight — not the weight of their plate, but their weight. There was a scale right at the entrance. Kids sat on the scale. The heavier the kid, the more it cost.

Patty wrote: “Hard not to feel self-conscious, especially when we’d go with another family and all of the boys were very skinny.”

Patty actually worked at Woodies later, behind the Velatis caramel counter. She managed to get back at the store for the public humiliation by enjoying more than a few caramels.

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