A true miracle

Rachael Scarborough King
Star Staff Writer
Published: June 2, 2006

For Jamie McGlaughn of Gadsden, her 21-month-old son Tucker truly is a miracle. When he was 9 days old, Tucker underwent a radical surgery to remove a cyst wrapped around his heart and blocking his airway. Doctors cut through his vocal cords and spliced them to a neck muscle, hoping they would regenerate.

“He’s a perfectly normal little boy – you’d never know anything had ever happened or was ever wrong with him,” McGlaughn said of her boy.

Tucker’s surgery was performed by Dr. Audie Woolley at Children’s Hospital of Alabama in Birmingham.

Saturday, the McGlaughn family – Tucker, his parents, and older brother Mason – will represent East Alabama at the 24th annual Children’s Miracle Network Telethon to benefit Children’s Hospital.

Tucker was chosen as the telethon’s East Alabama “champion” from among the more than 600,000 patients who visit the hospital each year.

“Until we had to use the hospital, we did not comprehend how important it is to have this facility right here in our back yard,” McGlaughn said. “We knew it was a wonderful hospital and we knew it was close by, but if it had not been this close to us our child might have died.”

Tucker’s surgery and week-long hospital stay cost about $100,000, which was covered by the family’s insurance, McGlaughn said.

Each year, 40 to 45 percent of patients are on Medicaid, and the hospital does about $10 million of unfunded work, according to Debbie Garrett, the East Alabama outreach coordinator for Children’s Hospital.

Last year, the Children’s Miracle Network raised $3.6 million for the hospital from sources such as corporate sponsors, lemonade stands, charity golf tournaments, and the telethon.

“We want the public to drive the telethon,” Garrett said. “Our donations that come from phone income will make a huge difference in the total.” She added that donors can pay monthly using their credit cards or can make a one-time gift.

Tucker was chosen a “champion” – one of seven from around the state – because of the severity of his case, the positive outcome, and his family’s willingness to share their story.

“We have many occasions when the outcome is not so favorable, but we do want people to understand that regardless of the outcome our hospital is there to provide the finest-quality care,” Garrett said.

McGlaughn said she hopes telling Tucker’s story at the telethon will encourage people to give money who normally wouldn’t get involved.

“I’ve always seen the telethon on TV and I’d always flip the channel,” she said. “As horrible as it seems, I’d always say, ‘I don’t want to hear these sad stories,’ but last year after what we went through with the hospital, I couldn’t tear myself away.”

She added that large donations are not necessary, that people who can only afford to give small amounts can help.

“The miracles they perform [at Children’s Hospital] every day can only be done through the donations that people send in through the telethon,” she said.

Although Tucker is too young to have an opinion about appearing on television, 4-year-old Mason, the family’s “camera star,” is excited.

“It will be interesting to see how both of them take to the TV program,” McGlaughn said. “I just really want the message to get across of how we feel like God has saved our son’s life through the miracle there at the hospital and the staff there.”

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