In the national political arena, health care is about competing constituent interests, counting votes and wading through pages of statistical and fiscal analysis.
On the fourth floor of Providence Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital this week in Spokane, a small group of supporters got a reminder that health care is also still about healing, curing and comforting.
We know, of course, that good works go on constantly in a community like Spokane, far from the brilliant spotlight that shines on controversial legislative debates. Routinely and anonymously, ordinary and extraordinary people share not only their money, but also their time and energy because, as Mark Rypien would say, “It’s the right thing to do.”
Rypien is living proof that fame and glory are no insulation from personal tragedy. He’s familiar to Spokane as the Shadle Park graduate who won a Super Bowl Most Valuable Player award in 1992. He also lost a 3-year-old son to cancer.
Rypien founded the Rypien Foundation, which now pours hundreds of thousands of dollars into helping childhood cancer patients and their families through the torment he had to endure.
On Tuesday afternoon, at a reception for some of the foundation’s board members and donors, Rypien was able to show off a classy children’s theater featuring a big-screen TV stocked with preloaded movies. A floor below there’s an open-air terrace where youngsters can play basketball or take in a dazzling view of the city.
Special backpacks and pedal cars equipped with IV racks give young oncology patients enough mobility to enjoy these amenities, even while undergoing chemotherapy treatments that previously kept them in their beds.
Less glitzy, but equally important, foundation funding covers a guitar-playing music therapist who visits the Children’s Hospital regularly and a patient advocate who guides stunned parents through a blizzard of anxieties that come when a child faces a dread disease. Perhaps it takes someone with personal experience to fully value those positions – which were to be cut until the foundation stepped in.
These and a host of other contributions are demonstrations of what happens in a caring community. The Rypien Foundation cuts a higher profile than most, but it is exemplary of many philanthropic endeavors that sustain Spokane’s and other communities’ health care delivery.
Long after the halls of Congress have stopped echoing with health care jargon, health care practice will require the kind of dedicated attention that only hometowns can provide.