My connection to Seattle Children’s began with my husband, Dale, years before I met him. At the age of 12, he traveled alone by train from Colorado to Seattle with nothing but the hope that a well-known surgeon at “the Orthopedic” could treat the rare disease that was slowly eroding the bones in his legs.
Dale lived at the hospital (then on Queen Anne Hill) for a year, undergoing bone grafts and physical therapy. On the last day of his stay, he gave the hospital’s finance officer the only money he had in the world: a 50¢ piece.The man solemnly accepted the coin as payment in full – an exchange that made Dale feel 10 feet tall!
On the train home, he was dumbfounded to find a $5 bill tucked inside the sack lunch his nurse had given him for the long journey. Dale vowed then and there to become a doctor so he could treat patients in the generous way he had been treated, and to pay back his entire debt to the hospital.
Dale died unexpectedly in 1991 at the age of 52. As he took his last breaths, I promised him that I would square the debt he had sworn to pay.
For many years after, the hospital was in my will but not in my heart. When I finally visited in 2006, a window in my life opened to sunshine when I saw that the circle of care surrounding Dale so many years ago was still alive and well at Seattle Children’s. From that day forward, my husband’s debt from the past became our investment in the health of tomorrow’s children.
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Published in Connection magazine, September 2014