When 9-year-old Jalen Thompson grows up he wants to be president. He expects that by then there will be a cure for cancer—if not, he will donate to help end it. “I will help whoever needs help the most,” he says.
If the presidency doesn’t pan out, Jalen’s Plan B is to become an astronaut. Not surprisingly, his Plan C is to become a doctor. You see, Jalen has more experience than most of his peers with doctors. The Freedom Elementary School student is battling leukemia—and without doctors and Children’s Hospital Colorado, none of his plans would even be a possibility.
The opening of Children’s Hospital Colorado in Colorado Springs last May offers relief for Jalen and other children needing care in Colorado Springs. The new facility is the first stand-alone pediatric hospital in Southern Colorado. “This is important for Colorado Springs,” says Margaret Sabin, president of Children’s, Colorado Springs. “We were only one of three cities this size without a dedicated children’s hospital.”
It’s especially important for the kids who need care. Having a facility with staff totally dedicated to children means so much to Jalen’s parents, Karen and Chad.
Before this dedicated hospital opened this year, some of Jalen’s treatment was conducted at the Children’s Hospital Colorado in Aurora. Each visit took a full day as the Thompson family budgeted four hours of drive time and three hours of treatment time.
More than that, having a pediatric-only emergency room nearby brings relief. Karen explains that every time Jalen has a fever, he has to go to the ER. She recalls one visit to a local ER where she had to help the nurse with his chemo port. “It didn’t give me confidence,” she says.
At the pediatric-focused facility, Chad says they’re used to dealing with kids. And not just the doctors and nurses. In the early days of treatment at Aurora, the woman who cleaned the room in the middle of the night made a huge impression with her calming presence and personal touch. “I absolutely remember the feeling of comfort and peace that she gave me when I was at my absolute lowest,” Chad says.
Jalen appreciates that doctors tell him the name of his medications and take the time to answer his questions about his chemo.
“We’re very excited to participate and collaborate within this community,” Sabin says. “We will be a community that puts kids as our top priority—that means we’re putting our future as a top priority.”
Sabin says surveys have shown the greatest healthcare needs in our community are mental and behavioral health; injury prevention; premature births; obesity and physical activity; and asthma and respiratory care. The hospital offers a pediatric emergency room, surgical facilities, sleep study facilities, imaging and cancer treatment.
Jalen is not just a Children’s Hospital Colorado patient; he’s an ambassador for the hospital. As ambassador, he attends events like this summer’s ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Colorado Springs facility. For that event, he memorized and recited a poem titled A New Place. “It’s not the things in this place. It’s the way you use them / To touch lives that need it and try to improve them,” he told the crowd in one stanza.
Jalen takes his role as ambassador seriously and wants everyone to know that when you donate to the hospital, every dollar counts. He also wants people to know that cancer is not like the flu. “You can’t snap your fingers and it’s gone,” he says.
Jalen is in the maintenance stage of his treatment, which means he’s down to monthly treatments instead of weekly. He still has two years of treatment to go.
“I don’t think of it as a cancer trying to kill me,” he explains. Instead he thinks of it like a superhero battling a villain. “And superheroes always win.”
Children’s Hospital By the Numbers
50 neonatal intensive care (NICU) beds
37 medical surgery beds
16 pediatric intensive care (PICU) beds
33 emergency exam rooms
6 emergency behavioral health rooms
8 operating rooms
33 surgical recovery beds
8 private cancer infusion rooms
5 types of imaging: MRI, CT, plain film, ultrasound, fluoroscopy
1st pediatric-only hospital in southern Colorado
1st pediatric-only ER in southern Colorado
1st pediatric-only epilepsy monitoring unit in southern Colorado
1st pediatric-only operating room suites