Nurse Emily Clark spends most of her time in what’s known as the medicine room at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. It’s also a place where most patients visit at some point.
“We give antibiotics, all the chemo, blood products, pain medicine (among other things,) Clark said.
Clark started at St. Jude in 1989 even though she was reluctant to do a rotation here during nursing school.
“Honestly, I begged not to come here because I thought, ‘Oh my God, it’s awful. It’s going to be so sad,’ but my instructor said, ‘too bad, get over it. You’ve got to go,’ and so I walked in and in five minutes I was hooked,” Clark said.
She was hooked on a place that’s leading the way the world understands, treats and defeats childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases.
“The kids are running around, you don’t know anything is wrong with them except they don’t have hair,” said Clark, about the mood in the hospital. “Nobody feels sorry for themselves.”
Including Clark, who is a two-time breast cancer survivor.
“So, I’m giving the same drugs to these kids that I got,” Clark said.
She won her battles with radiation, chemo and surgery.
“I can say, ‘Hey, I’ve been there. I’ve done that. You can get through that. Your hair will grow back,’” Clark said.
But the bonding and also make the coping that much harder when a battle is lost.
“The hardest part is when they don’t survive,” said Clark. “We’ve gotten to know them for so long. I can’t imagine as a mom that happening. You know, walking out of here and you don’t take your child with you.”
But there is always the hope that more cures are right around the corner. Treatments invented at St. Jude have helped push the overall cancer survival rate from 20 percent to more than 80 percent since it opened more than 50 years ago.
“The majority of our patients do well and survive long term so we see all that good and we have those miracle stories,” Clark said.
And while those miracles are happening, Clark takes comfort knowing that the only thing parents worry about at St. Jude is the health of their children.
“For a parent to say, ‘I don’t have to worry about a bill. I don’t have to worry about having money, a place to stay, food and I’m getting the best care known for my child to survive.’ That’s the biggest thing for me,” Clark said.
And for St. Jude, the biggest help is individual donors who cover 75 percent of the annual operating costs with an average donation of just $35.
“Thank you to anyone who has ever supported our hospital because it makes a difference,” said Clark. “Every penny makes a difference for these kids and families and allows us to give them the best thing we have.”
You can help fund life-saving treatment and research at St. Jude by purchasing a ticket to win the St. Jude Dream home. Mungo Homes is building the home right now in Pooler at zero cost to St. Jude with the help of multiple subcontractors. Click here for a link to buy a ticket and to get information about open house dates.