No Child Turned Away

By John Kelly
Monday, November 27, 2006

The human child is an amazing and contradictory thing. So much potential is inside each one, coiled in tiny arms and legs, packed in a brain just waiting to be filled.

And yet how fragile is that child.

That's what I thought last week as I stood in the neonatal intensive care unit at Children's Hospital -- the NICU, or as they call it: "NICK-you."

There's also the "PICK-you": pediatric intensive care unit, for slightly older kids. And the "SICK-you": cardiac intensive care unit, for heart cases. Then there are the operating and recovery rooms, the cancer ward and outpatient surgery, not to mention the mobile vans and satellite health centers the hospital has across the city.

All of these places, and the people who work at them, are dedicated to the idea that a child's fragility should not stand in the way of his or her potential.

The NICU has 40 beds, although sometimes as many as 50 newborns will be there, resting in clear cubicles, monitored by doctors and nurses who move noiselessly through the forest of tubes and wires.

"We're not going to turn a baby away who needs it," said Terry Orzechowski, the hospital's director of volunteer and consumer support services and my guide that day.

And that, I decided, could be the slogan for Children's Hospital: No one gets turned away. Not a baby, not a toddler, not a teenager. If you're a sick kid from Washington, there's always room at Children's; there's always hope.

That Children's can do this at all is due in large part to readers of The Washington Post, who since the 1940s have been donating to help pay the bills for the children whose parents can't. Today I kick off our latest annual campaign.

Our goal is to raise $500,000 by Jan. 19. Regularly over the coming weeks I'll share stories of Children's Hospital. My desire isn't just to convince you to pull out your checkbook or credit card; it's to inform you about this incredible resource we have on Michigan Avenue NW, one of the country's leading centers of pediatric medicine.

When I was at Children's last week, I gazed at a white board near the induction area, the rooms where anesthesia is administered. Written in marker on the board were some of the procedures scheduled for that day.

Some sounded scary: "PIC Line Insertion," "Broviac Placement." And some reminded me that kids will be kids: "Removal L Ear Foreign Object."

Here's How to Help

To donate, make a check or money order payable to "Children's Hospital" and mail it to Washington Post Campaign, P.O. Box 17390, Baltimore, Md. 21297-1390. (Please don't be alarmed by that Baltimore mailing address. That's where the post office box of our bank, Chevy Chase, is. All funds go to Children's Hospital in Washington.)

To contribute by phone using Visa or MasterCard, call 202-334-5100 and follow the instructions on the recording.

As in the past, we also will be offering a way to donate over a secure Web site. That should be up and running later this week. Watch this space.

Everyone who donates will receive a thank-you note, and all gifts are tax deductible, as allowed by law. We're always buoyed by groups who donate: co-workers who give to Children's rather than exchanging gifts or cards at the holidays, for example. I'll acknowledge groups in my column.

Don't send cash, but if you have foreign currency you want to unload, I'll take it. Mail it to me at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. Michael Checkan at Asset Strategies International Inc. can convert it into U.S. funds.

Craig Wilton, general manager of US Express, has again volunteered to dispatch one of his couriers to any office making a group donation. If you need a pickup in the District, call 202-338-3900. If you need a pickup in the suburbs, call 301-683-9009. Tell the operator that the account code is "ChildP."

Thank you.

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