Sup­port Chil­dren’s — for my chil­dren

The Denver Post - - OP-ED - By Jon Cal­dara

There are things you know to be true on some heady, in­tel­lec­tual level, but you don’t re­ally ac­cept them deep down in your bones. Then comes the mo­ment when, no mat­ter how you work to avoid it, re­al­ity crashes into your life like an earth­quake, scream­ing: “What you think might have hap­pened, well, it ac­tu­ally did hap­pen and there is no way you can hide from it now.”

That mo­ment hap­pened for me when my then sis­ter-in-law looked me in the eye and said, as gen­tly as she could, “We need to make some de­ci­sions.”

She handed me sev­eral full-color, glossy brochures for small coffins.

Which one did I want to buy for my daugh­ter?

The two weeks be­fore that mo­ment was a vi­o­lent, night­mar­ish, blur: Our nearly 1-year-old daugh­ter hos­pi­tal­ized due to con­stant vom­it­ing. An am­bu­lance ride to the dank, cramped and crowded old Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal in Den­ver. Nights squeezed into a dou­ble hos­pi­tal room with an­other fam­ily in cri­sis, con­nected to yet an­other dou­ble room by a tiny shared bath­room. The MRI show­ing the lemon-sized tu­mor in her brain. The tubes sur­gi­cally im­planted into her tiny lovely head to drain out fluid and pump in chem­i­cals. The doc­tor pass­ing sen­tence that it was an in­cur­able can­cer. She had, maybe, weeks. Her dy­ing just hours, not weeks, af­ter bring­ing her home. Hand­ing her per­fect lit­tle body to some stranger who drove up in a hearse. The quiet that cru­elly filled ev­ery space of our once rau­cous house.

But hold­ing that glossy piece of pa­per tout­ing the fea­tures of a metal box that would for­ever hold my first, my only child, my per­fect beau­ti­ful lit­tle Parker, made it real. It wasn’t a dream. I wasn’t go­ing to wake up.

Ly­ing next to Parker in that metal box is her lit­tle pur­ple bear, in some pa­thetic, odd hope it can keep her com­pany.

I’ll spare you the de­tails of the dark­ness that fol­lowed. But I’ll gladly share the hope that came to me when an­other baby girl, Piper, came to save my life, quite lit­er­ally. And then an­other lit­tle per­son ar­rived, but some­thing was wrong.

My son, Chance, was born with a ge­netic dis­or­der, Down Syn­drome. At three weeks he re­quired open-heart surgery to save his life. That meant go­ing back to that tor­ture cham­ber where my daugh­ter suf­fered: Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal. If I could dy­na­mite that hell­hole, I would.

For­tu­nately, a lot of good peo­ple ba­si­cally did it for me. In­vest­ing more money than I can imag­ine, they moved Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal Colorado to a sunny, roomy, happy new build­ing on the An­schutz Med­i­cal Cam­pus in Aurora. And over the years in this great place, brave peo­ple have saved me from los­ing an­other child. Chance has gone through 14 surg­eries in his 13 years, most at the new hos­pi­tal. With his unique reck­less ap­petite for life Chance, who we rightly call “Chance the Man,” is the frat brother I never had. But with­out Chil­dren’s, I’d be look­ing at those brochures again.

I have writ­ten in sup­port of Chil­dren’s be­fore. The mes­sage is worth re­peat­ing.

Peo­ple who do­nate to Chil­dren’s save lives. One small group, of­ten adorned by lit­tle pur­ple bears, does some­thing more. They help keep the mem­ory of Chance’s sis­ter alive. They’re called “Team Parker.”

Spurred on by my friend and co­worker Tracy Smith, Team Parker ped­dles through the Colorado Rock­ies ev­ery year for the Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal Courage Clas­sic, their fundrais­ing bike rid­ing event. They con­nect Parker with the brother who will never meet her. Over the last few years they’ve ped­dled their way to over $75,000 to help chil­dren like mine.

I’m guess­ing you haven’t thought about what gifts like theirs could mean to your fam­ily. But that ugly mo­ment of re­al­ity could crash into you at any time. It did for me twice. And when it hap­pens, you’ll be hum­bled and grate­ful that peo­ple from Phil An­schutz to Team Parker put Chil­dren’s in your back­yard be­fore you needed it.

I’m ask­ing you to take a mo­ment right now and give a few bucks to Chil­dren’s. Please. Help keep lit­tle peo­ple, like Chance the Man, alive. Please go to:

Jon Cal­dara is pres­i­dent of the In­de­pen­dence In­sti­tute, a lib­er­tar­ian-con­ser­va­tive think tank in Den­ver.

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