You may know about St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, but I bet that you don’t know all 11 Surprising Truths About St. Jude. Join me on my amazing journey and recap of my visit during the #StJudeBlogTour. Post sponsored by St. Jude. All opinions are my own
A little red wagon passing me by in the bright and cheery painted hallway. A curious face giving me a shy wave and a quick smile. A humble doctor shaking my hand and saying “thanks for being here.” Squeals of laughter and a princess dress. This is St. Jude. Every one of us has a unique St. Jude story. This is mine. I learned 11 Surprising Truths About St. Jude during my recent visit to Memphis, Tennessee. See how 3 days can change a life forever.
No Family Receives a Bill…Period.
It is one of the most radical mission statements I have ever heard. It’s counter culture. It’s morally challenging. It defies our world view. Despite race, religion, or financial status, no family ever receives a bill from St. Jude. From treatment to housing, travel and food – St. Jude covers all costs so families can focus on what really matters, helping their child to live. St. Jude has had the exact same mission for over 50 years – and still stands by it. Just typing up this portion of my post moves me to tears. No child turned away because of their ethnicity, what they believe or what their money situation looks like. People loving people.
One of the Top Research Centers for Childhood Cancer, in the World
77 beds. 7,800 patients a year. And a world-class research center a few steps away. St. Jude is not only a children’s hospital, but a research facility with scientists pouring endless hours over petri dishes and centrifuges to find a cure for cancer. This is a place where more clinical trials are tested than any other hospital – and can go straight from the lab into a patient’s IV line. This is the place where doctors send their toughest cases. It’s through the research of St. Jude that acute lymphoblastic leukemia survival rates have sky rocketed from 4% to 94%.
And Sickle Cell Too
I think that the majority of us already knew about St. Jude’s passion to treat and cure childhood cancer. But did you know that St. Jude also has one of the largest pediatric sickle cell programs in the U.S.? Studying this blood disorder has been a top priority of St. Jude, since before the hospital opening in 1962. It’s because of that passion that a St. Jude patient was the first in the world to be cured of sickle cell disease with a bone marrow transplant.
Today, over 850 sickle cell patients are treated at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital – with a lofty goal to focus research beyond treating symptoms to seeking a permanent cure through high-tech research studies, development of a bone marrow transplant program and gene therapy.
The Research is Shared Freely
Human nature tells us to keep the glory, fame and life-changing results to ourselves. Not St. Jude. Their mission goes beyond making money. Instead of using their research to fund personal gain – ALL results are shared for 100% free. Doctors and scientists around the world can access that knowledge and use for their own patients. Why? Because St. Jude wants to end childhood cancer, period. It takes a team to end childhood cancer, not one hospital. St. Jude’s research and treatment discoveries have pushed the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20% to now more than 80%. And with goals of reaching 90% – we need the world on-board.
The Hospital is Beautiful
There is so much beauty to be seen at the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital campus. It’s an uplifting place, a hospital that doesn’t look like a hospital. It doesn’t have that “hospital smell.” Every building, every sculpture, every fountain, every mural, every picture of a St. Jude patient is perfectly placed to remember the beauty in the world. It’s a place for kids to be kids. It’s a place to discover, smile and have fun but also provide a safe place for healing, rest, and love.
Care Extends Beyond Medical Needs
St. Jude strives to provide care beyond a hospital bed and treatment. Healing begins and ends with kids feeling like kids. Every part of care at St. Jude is family-centered. St, Jude’s attention to even the teeniest detail can mean the world to a child’s fight with cancer.
- Normalcy – Play area and activities, School classes, Music therapy
- Fear and Anxiety – Child Life services to explain procedures, treatments and even cancer in simple child-based terms
- Special Celebrations & Milestones – Halloween, Proms, School Graduations, Holidays
- Sibling Care – Cancer can be a scary time for siblings too, who are also dealing with so much change.
- No Mo’ Chemo Parties – Cancer Free. Those words can mean everything to a child and a child’s family. And that certainly is something to be celebrated. St. Jude throws a party for every child that finishes their cancer treatment.
- “Legacy” preservation – While St. Jude is a place of care and healing, there are also unfortunate circumstances surrounding death. St. Jude works with families for individualized legacy preservation of those special memories not forgotten – fingerprint jewelry, hand molds, and even song recordings using the patient’s heartbeat as the underlying “drum.” St. Jude ensures a child’s end of life care is dignified and personalized for families’ desires.
As a pediatric nurse, this fact surprised me. Just as St. Jude freely shares their research findings, they also freely encourage transparency with their patient families. And that means that doctors eat where patients eat. Tables at the St. Jude Kay Kafe are open to further building the relationships between families, workers, doctors and researchers. Everyone is gathered in one place on one team – breaking bread together.
One of the Top Companies to Work For
It’s not surprising that a place with such a big mission draws in a passionate workforce. For the 6th year in a row, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital has been named one the 100 Best Companies to Work for by FORTUNE magazine. If you ever get to visit, sit down and listen to one of the many “St. Jude employee stories.” Stories of patients who grew up and now work as a knowledgeable tour guide or a top researcher. Stories of parents who wanted to give back to the hospital that gave their children life. Stories of employees that have a deep connection with St. Jude’s mission. It’s these stories that drive employees to deduct directly from their own paychecks, raise more support, and spread the word with such fervor.
$2.2 Million a Day
Here’s the reality. It costs an astronomical amount of money to run St, Jude. $2.2 million dollars per day was a stat that really struck a chord with me. A hospital never gets a day off. Running all day, every day for 365 days every year requires money to operate…lots of money – from running the electricity to covering the cost of patient-specific chemo treatment. A number that large is intimidating and scary. But since opening in 1962, there has never been ONE day that didn’t reach this budget.
The Average Donation is $30
There’s only one reason that St. Jude is able to operate everyday at $2.2 million. Help. The majority of St. Jude’s funding doesn’t come from huge corporations and big firms, but from people like you and me. As of today, the average donation to St. Jude is $30. But could you imagine what that number would look like if every person gave just $1? I take a quote from founder Danny Thomas.
I’d rather have a million people give me a dollar than one give me a million. That way, you’ve got a million people involved.
St. Jude needs help. As prices rise and the economy turns, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital continues to need US to make a difference. Let’s change that average donation stat from $30 to $31…to $41…to $1001. Donate to St. Jude now. Help them continue the fight to end childhood cancer and radically change the world’s thinking.
One of the most surprising truths I discovered on my St. Jude journey, there was not an ounce of sadness to be seen. As a pediatric nurse, it was something I was completely prepared for. Tissues packed. Waterproof mascara on. Walled-off heart guarded. I was wrong.
Everywhere I looked, there are smiles, light, laughter, friendship, hope. From the patients to the families to the kitchen cooks to the doctors to the researchers staying all hours – every person I encountered could feel the love extending from this place. Hope and healing go hand in hand. My time at St. Jude honestly changed my life. If one place can be so radically different, so forward thinking, so world-changing, than I can too.
September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. What a better time to show your support of this amazing cause. Donate to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Follow St. Jude via Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube for the most up to date research findings, patient stories and hope – lots of hope. Consider supporting St. Jude today. Start your St. Jude story.
What truths about St. Jude surprised you? What’s your St. Jude story?
I was invited to attend an all-inclusive press trip in exchange for this posting. But I promise you, all opinions here are heartfelt and my own.