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Many of you may know that RE/MAX International has two charities.  The Koman Race for the Cure and The Children's Miracle Network of children's hospitals.  Just last year, RE/MAX agents contributed 8.1 million dollars to the Children's Miracle Network. The Children's Miracle Network is an alliance of 174 children's hospitals in the United States dedicated to the care and treatment of children and related research.

Cyndee and I as RE/MAX agents and Brokers have volunteered at some of the local Koman races.  The Koman Races raise money and awareness for a cure for breast cancer. Since so many Real Estate agents are women, RE/MAX thought it was a fitting charity to be involved with after one of our executive officers was afflicted and became a breast cancer survivor.  

Cyndee and I made the decision to donate a small amount with every closing to the Children's Miracle Network.  Thanks to you, we have been successful and our donations have averaged about a $1000 every year. Our agents voted and each agent in our office decided to make a similar donation with each of their closings.  We are the only 100% Children's Miracle Network office in the area.  Last year, our small office was 5th in contributions to the Miracle Network in the RE/MAX Midwest Region.  Our donations go to the Children's hospital at the University of Iowa in Iowa City.  

We did this without much thought, and not because we were special or really involved.  Just one of those things you do because you want to help, the cause was good and the money actually went to the charity. The money goes to a Children's hospital in your area to help local children, with at times, great need for assistance. Yes we had seen the films, and listened to some people who had been helped at the RE/MAX conventions, but our commitment was weak, with no special effort.

Never did Cyndee or I expect that we or our family would ever need the services of the hospitals.  We were very wrong and thank God they are there!  In December of 2005, my daughter, Bobbi, who was living with her husband in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, called to announce that she intended to come back to Iowa with our 21 month old grandson for a visit.  The plan was that she would spend a week with us, then go out to Colorado where she, until recently, had lived.  She had been an X games snowboarder, and lived on a small horse ranch where she and her husband had cared for and trained about 17 warm bloods.  She has done the training, dressage, arena jumping and eventing thing for years.  She loves to train horses and with the job, came a nice home in the mountains at Ridgeway, Colorado. Ridgeway is a small town between Montrose and Telluride.  She followed our footsteps and got her Real Estate Broker's license and did a little  residential and ranches to help make ends meet.  Telluride was just a few miles away, so were some other ski resort areas, so she had a quality outdoor life style that suited her.  After her visit in Colorado, she was to fly back to Iowa, spend a few more days, then return to Mexico.

She visited us and everything was fine.  Max was a joy; busy, curious and playful. Then they flew to Montrose to visit friends and family.  After two days, our grandson, Max, became lethargic. Worried, Bobbi took Max to his old pediatrician.  He had a few bruises on his legs, what infant doesn't, but fortunately the doctor recognized the symptoms and did a blood test.  Four hours later Max was flown to Denver and helicoptered from the airport to the Denver Children's Hospital. I received a call, cleared my decks and headed for Denver.  On that day, all of our lives changed.

Max was diagnosed with ALL, (Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia).  Later I was told that his first bone marrow sample was 100% Cancer, 400 bad cells out of 400 cells studied.  That if he had been in Mexico or if the behavior had not been diagnosed correctly, death could have followed within a few days.  Bobbi was given the choice of the standard treatment, or a new experimental program that was showing itself to be effective.  Believing that the new program was built on the research and experience with the old program, she chose the new delivery system.  A port was surgically put into Max to prevent the necessity of sticking him every time he needed blood drawn, a transfusion, medications, or chemo administered.  A port is a valve and line connected directly to his circulation system which is left in permanently for as many years as necessary to administer medications and take blood samples.

I arrived two days later.  I am writing this, because I feel a deep debt to the Denver Children's Hospital, who is a member of the Children's Miracle Network.  No matter what the outcome, the doctors, nurses, aids, janitors, food staff, volunteers, and an endless parade of pro players, celebrities and others made this horrible experience one of hope.  It changed my life and my commitment, thus this personal story.  Max was a typical 2 year old. He did not want to be confined, controlled, stuck, monitored, touched or bothered.  Through all this, every member of the staff was friendly, patient, knowledgeable and caring.  Most of you don't know it, but I have had pre-med anatomy and have a secondary degree in Orthotics which is braces for the extremities and spine.  I used to be a clinical orthotist at several of the hospitals in the Chicago area. I speak the language and had at one time, been a part of the system.  One of my weekly duties was pediatrics: spinal bifida, cerebral palsy, polio, burns, accidents, etc.  I can honestly tell you that I have never seen the equal of care that Max received in any hospital. The Children's Miracle Network hospital in Denver is the standard to which all hospitals should aspire.  Not just Max, but all the children there were receiving the very best of care.  Even the janitors were asking if there was anything we needed or anything they could do for us.  I have never seen such care and concern for the welfare of the patient and families anywhere else.  I am not saying that all of the children will be saved.  While there, I met parents who had lost a child, and I am sure there were others.  There are no guarantees.  Not for any of the children and not for Max.  That understood, the atmosphere was that of caring and hope.  I never saw anyone on staff having a bad day or without a smile.  I slept in the chair for over a week.  Showers were available for our use, bedding, food in the cafeteria, reading materials, movies and toys, wagons to haul Max around, and more were all there for our use, depending on the day and Max's condition.

I encourage everyone who reads this to consider making a donation to the Children's Miracle Network.  The money will stay local to be used for local patients using the Iowa City Children's Hospital in our case, or a member children's hospital in your area.  What follows is a photographic tour of the hospital in Denver.  The good part is that it could be any of 174 hospitals around this nation of ours.  The Denver hospital treated over 275,000 patients last year.  Multiply that by all the hospitals in the Network and you have millions of children treated every year.  You can wait for the telethon, donate direct or through our RE/MAX office.  I never knew we would require their assistance for our family.  I can honestly tell you that it is a miracle that they were there for Max.  I also want you to consider donating to the Ronald McDonald House.  They too are a true miracle for those families with children suffering acute medical problems.  More of that in the next section.

They say that one picture is worth a thousand words.  I tend to be verbose, so let my pictures speak for the children.  Thank you for your time and interest.

 Max will be at the Denver Children's Hospital for the next 6 months.  Then if he is clear, he will have to get monthly chemo and monitoring for another 3 years.  He can do that in Denver, Iowa City or any of the other 174 Children's hospitals in the Children's Miracle Network system.  He has an 85% chance of recovery.  Now that is a miracle, as a few decades ago, the disease would have been a death sentence. 

Max gets chemo on Tuesdays.  A massive dose over a couple of hours one week and a lesser dose to allow him to recover the next week.  He has no immune system, so normal skin bacteria can cause bad infections, and any virus or bacteria that he comes in contact with can make him very sick.  To date, he had to have the port removed due to a normal skin bacteria that became invasive and caused infection.  A viral infection that lasted two weeks with a 102 to 104 fever.  Massive swelling due to hives and an allergic reaction to one of the drugs.  In short, he has been in the hospital all but a couple of weeks over the last three months.  The hospital rooms have a built in window seat cot for the mothers, and a chair to sleep in for others.  They will bring in an extra cot if you desire, but that makes the room pretty tight.

The port is the place where blood is drawn, transfusions and medications given, chemo administered and hydration balanced.  They cover the port with a gauze shirt to keep the child from tearing at the port and to help hold the tubes in place when the port is being used.  This means that initially there were plastic tubes tethering Max to the bottles of blood, platelets, saline, and medications.  He had to be constantly monitored to make sure he did not pull the tubes out or get so tangled that he did injury to himself.  Chemo is given in a large room.  Video games, children's movies and television are available.  The children are there for about two hours.  Often surgical bone marrow and spinal taps precede the chemo in the morning and chemo is administered in the afternoon.  It makes a long day for the children of any age.  Bobbi often holds Max for the chemo as he is more secure in her arms and this  allows the long procedure to take place with less fuss.  Once off the transfusion lines, he is a lot happier and can roam like any other infant.  The rooms, even the wagons are rigged to carry transfusion bottles.   The number of children being treated at any one time is staggering. While there, it was not uncommon to have six to ten children receiving chemo during a time session.  The chemo has it's own affects.  Max will have permanent heart damage.  Vomiting, diarrhea, and weakness are constant.  Max lost the ability to walk and as time progresses he becomes more timid and afraid of new things.  He has a very restricted life, punctuated by regular doctor and hospital visits and isolation in his room.  The staff are super patient and spend a lot of time explaining what is going on and the expected problems and long term results.  These people put up with screaming infants and older children who are mad at the world because they were hit by disease and have had their normal lives put on hold and in some ways, ruined.  All of them are scared.  The doctors and nurses are true professionals and I witnessed them constantly going out of their way to calm, inform and uplift the families and small patients.  

We were very lucky so far.  The cancer was reduced to 7% within two weeks.  Of course there were multiple transfusions, whole blood and platelets. At two and a half weeks, the cell count showed him clear of cancer in bone marrow and spinal taps.  The doctor said that there are three genes that can cause Leukemia and there also has to be a viral or chemical trigger.  I was there when he announced the results of the genetic test.  He was surprised, as he expected Max to have all three genes involved based on his condition when he arrived.  We were blessed, only one gene is involved and the prognosis is good at present.  

Bobbi has been magnificent.  Her life, like the lives of all parents in this situation is completely changed.  She is now the 24 hour a day, 7 days a week primary care giver with no breaks or time to step away to regroup.  Max is starting to walk again.  He is back out of the hospital and can now take short wagon trips to the park or around the block.  Prognosis is good.  We are very blessed.  It will be a bumpy road.  A very difficult road for my daughter.  I ask you to remember them and the other children and families in your prayers.

So if you see the telethon, or would just like to contribute, please do.  Your generous gift will help upgrade facilities that will help hundreds of thousands of children in the years to come.

My special Thank You to the Doctors, Nurses, Staff at the Denver Children's Hospital for being very special people, and to all the Children's Miracle Network hospitals and their staffs, for making such a difference is so many lives.  Hopefully, this will give you some attention and donations to continue your generous work.  Thank You, Tom and Cyndee Browner, Bobbi and little Max. 

03/12/07 Update.  Max lived in Ronald McDonald House with Bobbi until October of 2006.  He had lots of emergencies due to having no resistance to disease due to the chemotherapy.  So he spent a lot of that time in the hospital, but he was cancer free.  In October they released him from weekly chemotherapy.  Bobbi and Max are living in Telluride. Colorado and have to make the trip back to Denver Children's hospital for spinal taps, blood test and chemo once a month.  This will go on for three years.  Max is small for his age, but verbal skills and development are above normal for his age.  He will probably have heart problems from the chemo, a normal side effect.  So Far, So Good.  We asked Bobbi if she wanted to come back here to Iowa and continue the monthly treatments at the Children's Hospital in Iowa City, but she declined as she wanted to stay with doctors and staff that saved Max from death.  It has been hard on her, and I truly have to respect the love and care she has devoted to Max.  She has been a rock.  Again my Thanks to Ronald McDonald House and Children's Hospital of Denver.  If you have time, remember them and their patients in your prayers and a donation to the Children's Miracle Network Hospital in your area.