If someone had told me eight years ago that a terrible situation in my life would end up positively affecting thousands of young people today, I wouldn't have believed them.
At age 16, when I was beginning to enjoy the privileges of driving, dating and more independence, my life was drastically changed forever. I was diagnosed with a life-threatening cancer called osteogenic sarcoma in my left leg.Doctors informed me and my parents that I would undergo a year of intense chemotherapy which would make me extremely ill and cause me to lose all my hair. For a teenager, that didn't sound like anything I wanted to experience.
You have no idea, when you actually go through a trial, how many people's lives might be influenced. Not only has my life been blessed because the doctors at Doernbecher Children's Hospital in Portland, Ore., were able to stop the cancer, but through a unique limb salvage operation, they made it possible for me to continue to be able to walk with my own leg.
Although the children's hospital had excellent doctors and nurses, the facility was outdated, overcrowded and had only one bathroom on my floor for all patients and their families. Most rooms were four-bed wards where parents were welcome to stay with their child. That compounded the crowding, making it difficult for even nurses to get to a patient's bed.
At Doernbecher, children from all over Oregon and southwestern Washington who are critically ill or have serious injuries are treated. The love that was shared with patients by the staff helped to make up for the antiquated hospital.
During the entire year I was treated at Doernbecher, my parents accompanied me each time and stayed with me until I was well enough to go home. There were many times when it seemed the chemo was killing me instead of the cancer, and the struggle was hard both for me and my parents.
When I finally received my last treatment and I was able to walk out of that hospital, I wanted to never look back, to close that chapter in my life and move on to another book. From all that my father had also endured through this trial, I would have thought that he would never want to go back to the hospital again and be reminded of what was now in the past. But he had been spiritually touched by this experience and had seen conditions that he felt had to be changed.
Because the space was crowded and rooms were full, equipment had to be stored in the halls where also young children, towing their IV poles, rode in wagons.
During one of my surgeries at the hospital, because there was limited room in the waiting area for my parents, they went back to my room to wait for me. It was then that my father made a decision that has turned my terrible trial into a blessing for thousands of young people.
In the room next to mine, a young girl about 14 was dying from cystic fibrosis. Because of the crowded facility, there was no quiet place for her parents, grandparents and friends to be able to spend some time privately with her. My father was stricken with sympathy.
He told me it was at that time he heard an almost audible voice say, "Myron, you need to do something about this." He didn't know what he could do, but he began to ask questions about why a new hospital couldn't be built. Nurses responded that people had been talking for 25 years about the need for a new hospital, but that was all it was, just talk.
My father began looking for ways to improve the hospital for future patients.
After attending a small assembly at an elementary school where money was being raised to pay for more wagons and toys for the young patients at Doernbecher, he was impressed with how much enthusiasm children have for others and what they were able to accomplish. He made a comment to a staff person at the hospital about what a great idea it was to involve children and, on the spot, he was asked if he would like to be involved. He answered, "Yes!"
He knew from my experience that young people want to do something when their friends are seriously ill and he knew from the Savior's example that the best way to involve young people is through service.
He founded a program in 1992 called "Kids Making Miracles" wherein students in schools throughout Oregon and southwestern Washington conceived and participated in a variety of fund-raising projects to help improve the facility at Doernbecher.
Participation improved from a modest beginning the first year of 22 schools to currently including more than 250 elementary, middle and high schools.
As a symbol for the program, my father designed an Eternal Flame of Hope that was first lit at the entrance to the old facility in 1992 by three other former patients and me. It was a reminder to patients and their families that there are thousands of young people in the community who are aware of their suffering and want to contribute to their care.
"Kids Making Miracles" has received recognition for its efforts from the state of Oregon, the National Basketball Association and the National Society of Fund Raisers. These honors were not sought, but were a compliment to the service that had been given in the community. The most important result of "Kids Making Miracles" has been the personal growth of the young people who have been involved and the patients who have been blessed because of the funds raised.
The amount has exceeded $1 million, that figure being matched by Portland Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen for a total of $2 million.
Sparked by the efforts of the young students, plans got under way to build a new hospital and my father not only was asked to serve as president of Doernbecher Foundation, but was put in charge of raising more than $35 million for the new building. He was happy to help and continued to serve as chairman of "Kids Making Miracles."
His unselfish service has been a positive example to many in our community.
The new hospital, a state-of-the-art facility, was recently dedicated and opened for the first patients. Not only does each patient have a private room, each has his or her own bathroom. There are many private conference rooms and family waiting areas, along with a family laundry, family dining areas, playrooms and courtyards. In front of the hospital there is also a new Eternal Flame of Hope. It is surrounded by a wall where the names of all the schools that participated in making the hospital a reality are listed.
During the Pioneer Sesquicentennial last year, my parents were stake coordinators for the local celebration and developed different ideas for service. The one that interested everyone the most was to provide matching baby and youth quilts to go on the patients' beds when the hospital opened.
The quilts were made by members of the Primary, Young Men, Young Women, elders quorums, high priests quorum and Relief Society throughout the stake. A label was attached to each of the 150 quilts which stated "Faith in Every Footstep, Love in Every Stitch."
When patients were moved from the old facility to the new hospital, they were accompanied by members of the stake who gave them quilts and matching pillowcases. The Church members expressed their love to the patients and told them that the quilts were theirs to take home after their hospital stay. Nurses, doctors, staff members and others were amazed and touched at the sight of the 150 quilts and pillowcases.
As I said at the beginning, literally thousands of young people and others have been affected by an experience that occurred eight years ago that almost devastated me and my family. But my father turned a negative experience around and helped me see how we can grow from overwhelming trials and become stronger and serve others at the same time.