A 13 Year-Old Patient Talks About the Importance of CHGME

Child health advocate Dede Dankelson explains why her son Peter wrote to his member of Congress in support of CHGME.

Our oldest son, Peter, was born prematurely with multiple birth defects. At 13, his medical care continues to be complex and requires follow up by many pediatric specialists. Support for Children’s Hospitals Graduate Medical Education (CHGME) funding is obviously important to our family.

When Peter was recently given a Social Studies assignment to write to his legislators, I jumped at the opportunity to help him earn more than just a good grade. This, I thought, is the perfect time to teach Peter the value of making his voice heard. In particular, I wanted to teach the lesson that legislators vote on issues important to him. I wanted Peter to understand that politicians are elected to represent his needs and that it is important for him to let those delegates know how much their vote impacts his life.

To get Peter started with the assignment, I wrote down the following on a blank piece of paper: “What would your life be like today without your specialists?” He struggled a little, so I got more specific and asked him to write down his answers to questions like, “What if you didn’t have a GI doctor to take care of your feeding tube? What would happen if you didn’t get the proper nutrition? What if you didn’t have ENT and pulmonary doctors that made sure you were getting enough oxygen? How would that have changed your life? What if you didn’t have a nephrologist to monitor your kidney function and manage your medication? Would you be healthy and in 7th grade? What if you were really sick but couldn’t get an appointment to see one of your doctors?"

These questions generated a very interesting conversation. It enabled us to draft a letter in Peter’s own words and not mine. Most importantly, it helped Peter understand how much legislation can impact his own quality of life.

Peter Dankelson
Highland, MI

Dear Congressman Bentivolio:

I am writing to ask that you vote in support of the Children’s Hospital Graduate Medical Education Reauthorization Act (S. 1557).

I am a 13 year old patient at Children’s Hospital of Michigan and need to frequently see several pediatric specialists. If there wasn’t a children’s hospital, I would have to go to an adult hospital where the doctor’s wouldn’t know how to treat a growing kid. And without my GI specialist, I would not have grown up healthy and strong. I was born prematurely with more than ten birth defects and am followed by 8-10 pediatric specialists.

Children’s hospitals are important for a lot of reasons. They know how to soothe kids’ fears of surgeries, labs, and other hospital stuff. The Child Life Specialists explain how things work and why they do it. Please don’t take funding away from children’s hospitals and pediatric medical education. Without the money, the hospitals wouldn’t be able to buy equipment designed for kids and doctors won’t go into pediatric specialties to learn how to take care of kids.

I have had about 25 surgeries at children’s hospitals and see pediatric specialists in GI, pulmonary, nephrology, audiology, ENT, nephrology, orthopedics, neurology, neurosurgery, craniofacial, oral surgery, and ophthalmology. Because of all the good care I’ve received, I am in 7th grade at St. Patrick School in White Lake. I have a part in the school play this year and enjoy video games, reading, and hanging out with my little brother. I’m also a huge Star Wars fan.

Please think of me when you vote on reauthorizing GME support of children’s hospitals.

Peter Dankelson

Peter D.