Seattle Children’s Research Institute may be powered by the brightest scientific minds, but the original push for the institute came straight from the hearts of mothers.
In 2000, hospital trustees Resa Moore, Jane Blair, Rhoda Altom and Sherry Benaroya – all moms whose own children suffered chronic illnesses that eluded cures – convinced the rest of the board that pediatric research should play a bigger part in the hospital’s mission.
“Clinical care defined Children’s first hundred years,” explains Moore. “We knew that research needed to define our second hundred years if we wanted to cure kids in addition to treating them.”
Moore knew the benefits of research firsthand, since she had seen its practical workings in her own home.
Her daughter Lissy was born with cystic fibrosis (CF). Her quality of life was vastly improved with TOBI, an inhaled form of the only antibiotic with the capacity to kill pseudomonas – a virulent bacteria commonly found in the lungs of kids with CF. When given systemically, the effective dose of that antibiotic – tobramycin – was so high that children who received it risked damage to their kidneys. So Children’s physician-scientists Drs. Arnie Smith and Bonnie Ramsey developed an inhalable form of tobramycin that delivered the medicine directly to where it was needed – the lungs – at an effective dose kids could tolerate.
But even TOBI and other pioneering advances – including a double lung transplant in 1992 – couldn’t save Lissy. She died at the age of 15 in 1998.
“Lissy was a very spunky, spirited child who made the best of life,” reminisces Moore. “I learned not to put my energy into the fact that her life was cut short before a cure could be found; instead, I asked, ‘what can we do now?’”
That’s the same question another mother – Children’s founder Anna Clise – asked 100 years before Lissy’s death when her 6-year-old son succumbed to inflammatory rheumatism in 1898.
Channeling their grief into action enabled both women to create lasting legacies for improving pediatric care.
Moore says helping bring the research institute to fruition is one of her proudest accomplishments on the board. And the strong kinship she feels to Clise – their shared determination to ensure that no child be denied a full life due to illness – still inspires her.
“Anna Clise recognized the power of the individual. She and 23 of her friends gave $20 each to start the hospital so that children in our region could receive specialized care at a time when the need for pediatric-focused care wasn’t even fully recognized. Today, we give $1,000 to be Research Champions for an even bigger payoff – so that all children with chronic illnesses may soon be cured.”
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