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St. Jude Radiothon Sparks Long-Forgotten Memories

Dave Spencer's mom, Sue, circa 1952. (Photo courtesy of the Dave Spencer family)

It was a simple phone call to inform my mom that the Louisville/Cincinnati basketball game was on ESPN–she graduated from U of L in 1954. Just a simple phone call. Then the gears started turning, connections were made, and my mother suddenly remembered an amazing story from her time spent at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in 1952 as part of her training curriculum. So she wrote the following essay:

“Last night, was an unusual night for me. I was educated through Kentucky Baptist Hospital, University of Louisville, and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. They were playing basketball on TV, against each other (Louisville & Cincinnati), so I could just relax and say may the best team win. I suppose, due to my following and consuming thoughts, the best one did–Cincinnati–a place I’ll never forget.

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital–they were involved in so much ideas and procedures for children–a magnificent place dedicated to research and immediate care. Children came from all over the world. Student nurses were assigned a child and they were yours until they went home.

Gerhard Bach. 3 years old. His parents were leaving to go back to Germany, so I took him by the hand and said ‘Gery (Jerry), let’s go find some toys.’ His father came back and sternly said, ‘His name is Gerhard.’ Our cleft-palate-repair children had to be left by their parents until the day they went home. They didn’t want them crying until their surgery healed. I always taught them their first verbal words, ‘Mom and Dad, I love you.’ What a special time for their reunion.

Betty Rose. 4 years old. She had gastric surgery, but after the surgery, her family went home into the eastern hills of Kentucky. They had no way to come back until she was dismissed. She hated her hospital gown, but that was all we had. She loved paper dolls. One day, after leading her away from a window, she looked up at me and said, ‘Are they coming today?’

I made her a giant paper doll and told her to tell me what style she wanted and would draw them and she would color them. She was still there when I had to go back to Louisville.

The first heart surgery of its kind was done there. Very unstable outcome, but family and doctors used it as a last resort. Unsuccessful. The family was called and I was sent to stay with her. She was non-responsive, but I sang nursery rhymes, since hearing is the last sense to leave the body. I was trying to hold back the tears when I felt a little hand reach into mine. When I looked at her, she smiled. Her eyes slowly closed and she was gone.

All of these memories and so many more. Now all these years later, my son is working with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, a magnificent hospital for these precious little ones. God bless you all.”

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