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ear-soaked scraps of paper kept showing up in the chapel at the old Children's Hospital in the 1970s, each with its own plea.
Today, at the front of the chapel in The Children's Hospital at OU Medical Center, wallet-size photos of children and even a baby's ID bracelet are wedged into the frame of a 3-foot-by-4-foot painting of Jesus at the door.
What do these represent? The need to connect.
But the best example of that is found by reading the “Book of Hope,” a nondescript three-ring binder with blank copy paper kept on a wooden shelf in a back corner of the chapel.
The book is the essence of patients, family and friends connecting with hope.
Wallet-size photos are among those tucked into the frame of a painting in the chapel at The Children's Hospital at OU Medical Center.
“This ‘Book of Hope' of hope shows you how important, how spiritually important, this word connection is,” said Danny Cavett, chaplain at Children's since 1976. “It's connecting with God and also other people who are going through the same thing.
“Until we saw the scraps of paper, then started putting the book out, I didn't realize it was that strong of a coping mechanism.”
Sure, the book is in the ninth-floor chapel of a hospital in a metro area of more than a million people. But for many of those whose trembling fingers pick up the pen, they are walking “through the valley of the shadow of death.”
“However, it says, ‘I will fear no evil, for You are with me,'” Cavett said. “It's the idea that someone's holding my hand.
“We were created to be a social creature and to not fulfill that part of who you are is a big void, and you'll always suffer because of that if you don't. Don't get to that point where you feel alone.”
Chaplain Danny Cavett is shown holding the "Book of Hope" in the chapel of The Children's Hospital at OU Medical Center.
The Children's Hospital at OU Medical Center
•In 1927, at the request of Gov. Henry S. Johnson and with the advocacy of Ponca City philanthropist Lew Wentz, the state Legislature approved the construction of a hospital for “crippled children.” Located at the corner of Kelley and NE 13 streets, the 160-bed, three-story building had a shop for the construction of orthopedic appliances in the basement. Wentz donated funds for an adjacent school to serve hospitalized children.
Shown in this 1952 photo is a new glass-enclosed sun porch. The porch, on the third floor attached to the east wing, was built for the hospital by the Junior League.
Crippled Children's Hospital, as it was first called, and the new medical school building were heralded as major accomplishments of OU President William Bizzell's administration. Combined with University Hospital, constructed in 1919, the core of a university medical center was in place.
•During the polio epidemic of the 1940s, the children's hospital served thousands of Oklahoma children who contracted the disease. In 1943, five wards were dedicated to polio victims, and in 1948, two wooden buildings were moved to the campus to house convalescing polio patients.
•In 1957, the hospital's name was changed to Children's Memorial Hospital. Although the orthopedic appliance shop in the basement continued to serve thousands of youngsters each year from all over the state, a ruling by the state Supreme Court in 1952 against the collection of a mill levy from each county to pay for the hospitalization of indigent children continued to threaten the future of the hospital.
In 1957, the hospital's name was changed to Children's Memorial Hospital. This photo was taken in 1960.
•In 1973, the Legislature took the controversial step of transferring the university's impoverished children's hospital to the then Department of Public Welfare, now known as the Department of Human Services. The department's director took a personal interest in the hospital, and it underwent extensive remodeling and expansion.
•The seven-story Garrison Tower, named for OU pediatrician George H. Garrison, was completed in 1977 and included 190 beds, a burn center and a 47-bed neonatal intensive care unit. The following year, Nicholson Tower, named for OU pediatrician Ben H. Nicholson, was completed, and the third and final tower was named for OU pediatrician Charles Beilstein.
•Children's Memorial Hospital once again faced tough financial times following the end of the oil boom in the 1980s and the rise of managed care. The name of the facility was changed by the state in 1988 to The Children's Hospital of Oklahoma and was still operated by the DHS as part of the State of Oklahoma Teaching Hospitals.
•In 1993, The Children's Hospital of Oklahoma, along with its sister adult teaching institution, Oklahoma Medical Center, was transferred to the University Hospitals Authority where it was clarified that the hospital shall serve as a general hospital and service institution for people younger than 21.
•In July 1996, the Oklahoma Legislature authorized creation of the “University Hospitals Trust” to ensure the purposes of the authority. In addition, the authority began to look toward the private sector for a partner to ensure viability. The authority, Trust and HCA Corp. negotiated for two years on a unique partnership that would merge Children's and University with the HCA owned Presbyterian Hospital.
•On Feb. 5, 1998, the parties entered into an historic public/private partnership establishing the Joint Operating Agreement, which assures the future of what is now referred to as “The Children's Hospital at OU Medical Center.”
•In mid-2007, a $43 million construction project was completed to officially relocate the Children's Hospital to another, more modern, adjacent facility on the OU Medical Center campus. The Children's Hospital is undergoing another construction project, which when completed, will give the hospital a new front entrance, an atrium, a new parking structure and education space.
Pictured from left, nurse aide Mrs. Stepney, graduate nurse Mrs. L. Crotty and registered nurse Mrs. N. Schwartz hold infants while standing around the Bourns Pediatric Respirator in 1969.
Source: The Children's Hospital at OU Medical Center
Grant Naberhouse, 12, is in a semi-fetal position on his hospital bed. The Benadryl will soon start to take effect, easing the pain of the spinal tap the leukemia patient needs and endures. Yet as frail as he looks there on the white linen, Grant is making sure others at Children's don't walk alone.
“When he was first diagnosed, we were overwhelmed and shocked and some patients and their mothers came to talk to us,” said Grant's mother Holly Naberhouse. “That just gave us such hope. Now, Grant has a long list of people he prays for every night, children and families we've met through the clinic.
“Our faith has been such a strength to us. I don't know how we could have gone through this without that foundation.”
After Trevor Duhon was diagnosed with cancer, the child and his mother Donna Duhon were at Children's for 31 straight days as he received radiation and chemo.
“So we bonded with families,” Donna said. “And you gauge their survivorship with your survivorship. They made it this far, we're going to make it that far.”
About three weeks in, Trevor, 11, bonded with a 5-year-old boy at Children's.
“The little boy passed away about six weeks into our journey,” Donna said. “That's when it dawned on us that some kids we meet wouldn't survive this journey.
“We were almost done with our treatment when we met another family. Trevor and Paige are still good friends, and her mother and I are good friends.”
“...you gauge their survivorship with your survivorship. They made it this far, we're going to make it that far.”
- Trevor Duhon
Trevor Duhon, a former patient at the OU Children's Hospital and a childhood cancer survivor is shown here at age 19. - PHOTO PROVIDED
At 13 years old, Jenny Rodgers was losing her hair, her eyebrows and her eyelashes as a result of the treatment needed for the Hodgkin's lymphoma.
“Nobody gets it unless they've been through it,” she said. “When you realize what other people have been through, it just really gives you the strength, hope and courage to fight.”
“ When you realize what other people have been through, it just really gives you the strength, hope and courage to fight.”
- Jenny Rogers
The second time the Rodgers family went to Children's, they noticed another family with a son walking in with that stunned look on their faces.
“My parents befriended them,” she said. “They would talk about how moody we were because we were both about the same age and both going through the same treatments.”
Today, Jenny Rodgers is executive director of the Cavett Kids Foundation which provides a forum of support through various camps, events and programs for children with life-threatening or chronic illnesses while promoting character, coping skills and yes, connection.
“A kid may look at another kid and think, ‘Well maybe I'm not so bad off,'” Cavett said. “They may actually be worse off, but if you can kind of learn to put yourself in their shoes it really helps you in dealing with your own situation.”
A sentence, a few paragraphs, a couple of pages. The lengths of comments in the “Book of Hope” vary.
Cavett has read thousands of entries in the “Book of Hope” through the decades and concludes they have so much in common.
“It's a big, heavy journey,” he said, “and they're trying to find a way to carry that load.”