By Claire Johnston, Licensed Clinical Social Worker who oversees Kids Alive!, the program from Porter Adventist Hospital that provides support for children, ages 6-16, of parents with cancer:
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world as we know it for everyone, but maybe most significantly, for our kids. As a result of the pandemic, Kids Alive! had to cancel the annual overnight retreat in March, and move our April and May groups to meet virtually. We always knew how resilient the kids of Kids Alive! were, but their commitment to the group despite these changes has been astounding.
Thus, the Kids Alive! team knew that we needed to make our final group extra special, despite the circumstances. Partnering with Minuteman Press and The Porter Foundation, we created one-of-a-kind “You are a Hero!” star-shaped yard signs that were delivered to 21 kids throughout the greater Denver Metro area. From Boulder down to Castle Rock, and Morrison to Commerce City, our dedicated volunteers delivered these hero-themed surprises, along with a goody bag and personalized note, as a reminder that they truly are the Hero in their journey, as the Kids Alive! curriculum teaches throughout the year.
The surprise was meaningful to both the kids and their parents, who expressed their gratitude over and over again to the Kids Alive! team for supporting their children in these uncertain times. We wrapped up our year with a virtual group on May 9th, where the kids showed fun photos of their signs and shared what it means to be a Hero in their story of their parent’s cancer. The Kids Alive! team looks forward to our 2020-2021 year, hoping to recruit even more families and make a difference in the lives of children with parents living with cancer.
Kids Alive! is a free program made possible by the generosity of community donors, Porter Hospital and the Porter Hospital Foundation.
Support Kids Alive!
Dave’s Monday morning started out the same as any other. As a pilot for United Airlines, he had just completed a flight from Raleigh to Denver and had driven home to rest. He was looking forward to catching up on sleep when he felt a sharp pain in his chest.
“It was like suddenly being hit with something,” Dave recalls.
He knew what was happening to him was serious, so he called his son, who happened to be on break that week from Colorado School of Mines, to take him to the closest ER at Castle Rock Adventist Hospital. During the brief drive, Dave felt his condition rapidly deteriorating. He started losing feeling in his legs, he experienced intense back pain, and by the time they pulled up to the ER, he couldn’t move his lower body.
The ER physician took one look at him and immediately called Flight for Life. She suspected there was an issue with Dave’s aorta, so while the helicopter was on the way, she also ordered a CAT scan. Shortly afterward, the helicopter arrived and Dave, along with the results of his CAT scan, were rushed to the cardiac surgeons at Porter Adventist Hospital.
During the brief ride, Dave remembers feeling his organs squeeze together. He was a medivac pilot for the army early in his career, so he knew these symptoms indicated that his body was draining blood from essential organs to keep his heart working. His caregivers at Porter also knew how urgent his case was, and, since they had already received the results of the CAT scan, knew exactly where to start operating.
“When we arrived at Porter, the team was waiting outside to rush me into surgery,” Dave said. “It was probably only about an hour from the time I arrived in the ER to the time I was in surgery.”
The fast response saved his life.
The next couple of weeks were a blur for Dave as he focused on his slow recovery. What he does remember is how lucky he felt to be alive – only two to four percent of people survive an aortic dissection – and how grateful he was for the exceptional, quick-thinking doctors he had by his side.
“I’m happy that it worked out for me,” Dave said. “Without the care at Centura, the story would’ve been completely different.”
In fact, once he recovered, he decided to make a donation to the Centura hospitals that cared for him, as a way to express his thanks. He also wrote heartfelt notes to each of the physicians that handled his case, like Kristen Hertzler, the ER physician who treated Dave at Castle Rock Adventist Hospital and Jess Joymon, the thoracic surgeon at Porter Adventist Hospital.
“It’s not every day you get to hear about how you changed someone’s life for the better,” Kristen said. “I am beyond humbled!”
Dave’s story highlights the strengths of a system that works together to save lives. Gifted physicians and valuable resources at our Centura hospitals provided Dave with a new birthday and a second chance at life – a gift he’s incredibly grateful for.
Paying it forward
You made the scariest times of our life a little more manageable.
On June 16, 2002 – Father’s Day – Denise Gerhardt’s husband, Rick, and her son, Dusty, went for a drive. The quality time between father and son turned into a nightmare as the two ended up in a horrible car accident.
Dusty was released the following day, but Rick wasn’t so lucky. Emergency crews had to place a tracheostomy before even arriving at the hospital, and Rick suffered broken vertebrae, wrist, fibula and tibia; he lost his spleen and several feet of his intestine; and his liver and kidney were lacerated. He was in the ICU for an entire month, and then spent another month in a rehab facility. On the day of the accident he weighed 175 lb; when he came home two months later, he had dropped to 118 lb.
Over the next eight years, Rick visited Parker Adventist Hospital many times due to continual vomiting, dehydration, and pain resulting from head trauma he had sustained in the car accident. In 2015, an exploratory surgery at Parker Adventist revealed that his stomach was where his heart should be, and he had an incredible amount of scar tissue that had to be removed.
Throughout this time, mounting medical bills meant the family was struggling financially. A co-worker suggested that Denise, who was a CNA at Parker Adventist Hospital, reach out for employee financial assistance from the Parker Hospital Foundation.
It wasn’t easy to ask for help, but Denise knew how much her family needed the assistance and submitted her request. The Foundation paid the family’s mortgage payment that month. But the difficult stretch persisted, and the family received notice that the IRS might step in to collect payments that would shut down Rick’s machine shop, which he had owned and operated for 40 years. The Foundation stepped in again and paid two more months of the family’s home mortgage.
“I swore that day that I would repay it, and pay it forward someday,” said Denise. “I owe so much to the Foundation and all the people who contribute to the Associate Financial Assistance fund for making the scariest times of our life a little more manageable.”
Today, Rick feels the best he has felt since before the accident. Denise no longer works as a CNA after sustaining an injury herself, but transitioned into a patient access representative role at Parker Adventist Hospital, where she still works part time, donating a small amount from each paycheck to the Associate Financial Assistance fund.
She has also become a successful real estate agent, and for every house she sells, she donates $100 of her commission to the Parker Hospital Foundation.
Our associates give of themselves in many ways – carrying out our healing ministry to all those in need and helping our patients, families, communities and each other live their best possible lives. Their compassion and generosity are palpable, and they’re not limited to the incredible work they do in our facilities each day; in 2019, more than 3,000 associates across Centura Health contributed more than $725,000 to the incredible programs that make each hospital special through our Associate Campaigns.
Thank you to Denise and each and every one of our associates who give freely and generously of their time, energy, empathy, and funding to make a difference for our patients, communities, and each other.
Emelyne's unexpected gift
Providing a new prosthetic leg for this sweet, shy schoolgirl was a blessing for Melitta Verrill and her husband
By Melitta Verrill, Global Health Initiatives donor and trip participant
Last January I traveled to Rwanda to help the GHI team engage local school children with crafts and songs each afternoon after their school day ended.
Most of the school children came in their matching school uniforms and sat on benches under the pergola on the hospital grounds.
They all seemed to know one another well. They were talking, laughing, and clearly eager to practice speaking English with me or one of the other “Mzungus” (a term used to refer to people of European descent).
I soon noticed a little girl – Emelyne – with a very serious face who sat quietly off to one side. Her mother was nearby sharing the story through a translator of how her daughter had tragically suffered the loss of her lower leg in a traffic accident.
The girl looked scared and forlorn as her pant leg was raised so pictures could be taken to show her need for a new prosthetic limb, which she had outgrown more than a year ago.
My heart broke as I thought about the trauma she had experienced, not just because of the loss of her leg, but also because her undersized prosthesis was obviously limiting her ability to fully engage in the fun and play with the other children her age.
At the time of our meeting, my husband – who was also on the trip with me – and I didn’t know Emelyne would become our sponsored child in Rwanda. We knew we wanted to help in some way and asked God to lead us and show us where there was a need.
We feel blessed that we can help provide Emelyne with a properly fitted prosthesis now and in the future as she grows and requires refitting. We hope this gives her the confidence to engage in all the activities that girls and boys her age share.
Our prayer for Emelyne is that her life will be full. We hope she will feel loved and cherished and come to know Jesus who loves her more than any of us knows!
We pray her limb loss will teach her perseverance and give her confidence that she can overcome any difficulty that lies ahead. We wish her good health, success in school, and a healthy self-esteem.
May she know she has a special place in our hearts and that our lives have been forever blessed for having met her.
Jean says "thank you!"
Supporters like you helped a Rwandan boy receive life-changing surgery...
To meet 9-year-old Jean de Amour is to experience gratitude through a child’s point of view.
His big, soul-searching eyes seem to peer straight into your heart. Though he’s shy and doesn’t know what to make of his American visitors, you can easily see the hope shining within him. He knows his entire life is about change.
It’s a happy scene, but Jean’s story doesn’t begin here. Before he could even dream of walking normally, Jean needed a miracle.
His Community Believed He Was Cursed
Jean was born with two clubfeet in a village outside Kigali, Rwanda. His community saw the disability as a curse and shunned him. No one wanted to talk to the boy with the oddly shaped feet.
Jean is completely dependent on his family – particularly his father – to care for him.
“Jean would have no future if something happened to me,” Jean’s father, Eric, told us.
Jean’s fate changed when a team from Global Health Initiatives met him.
“He speaks very little and avoids eye contact,” said Greg Hodgson, Director of Global Health Initiatives. “He’s ashamed of his clubfeet and is uncomfortable with others staring at him.”
Jean’s case is severe. He requires surgery on both feet and six months of rehabilitation at the hospital. He needed a sponsor to provide for the surgery, room and meals, and schooling. It was a tall order to be sure.
But no challenge is too big for generous supporters like you. Soon after he met with the team from Global Health Initiatives he received the best news of his life – his surgery and recovery were fully funded.
My Son Has a Future!
Jean’s dad knew that his son was slowly isolating himself from his friends and family. It was heartbreaking to watch.
“I want him to be the happy child he was before he realized his clubfoot made him different,” Eric said.
In a few weeks, he will travel with Jean to the pediatric hospital for his son’s surgery. “Soon Jean can return to school and fulfill his dreams of becoming a doctor,” Eric said. “My son has a future!”
You Reach the World
Jean’s corrective surgery is a new beginning that you made possible. He’ll go back to his community freed from shame and isolation. He’ll know that donors like you made his future possible.
By supporting GHI, you’re providing world-class medical treatment for children like Jean – children who would otherwise have no options.
So, when Jean says “thank you,” we couldn’t agree more.
ABOUT THIS BLOG
We share incredible stories of lives changed in our communities through YOUR support of our hospitals and programs.