June 26, 2009

Children’s Hospital family meets with lawmakers in D.C.

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Steve and Rita Peters look on as their daughter Abbigail, 4, receives a kiss on the cheek from U.S. Rep. John Tanner, who represents the Peters’ district. (photo by Ken Cedeno)

Children’s Hospital family meets with lawmakers in D.C.

Four-year-old Abbigail Peters and her parents, Rita and Steve, spent a day in the nation’s Capitol speaking with two Senators and six Representatives from Tennessee about why children’s hospitals and children’s health care coverage are crucial.

For the first time, the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt participated in the National Association of Children’s Hospitals’ Family Advocacy Days in Washington, D.C., June 16-18. The Peters family was chosen to represent the Children’s Hospital.
N.A.C.H. is the public policy arm of the National Association of Children’s Hospitals and Related Institutions, of which Children’s Hospital is a member. The event was designed to allow patient families to tell about their personal experiences.

“It’s so important for our lawmakers to know that children’s hospitals are healing children every day. It’s been said time and time again, but children are our future and we must always ensure their access to quality health care,” said Kevin B. Churchwell, M.D., chief executive officer and executive director of Children’s Hospital, and a member of the N.A.C.H.R.I. Board of Trustees.

In 2005, the family spent nearly three months in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the Children’s Hospital when their daughter, Abbigail, was born 10 weeks premature and with Down syndrome.

The Peters met with Sen. Lamar Alexander, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, Rep. Steve Cohen, Rep. Jim Cooper, Sen. Bob Corker, Rep. Lincoln Davis, Rep. Bart Gordon and Rep. John Tanner. Rita Peters, an amateur photographer, gave each of the lawmakers a photo book she created that documented Abbigail’s time in the NICU at Children’s Hospital.

“We were overwhelmed by being asked to represent the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt,” Steve Peters said. “It was fast and furious, and we had a wonderful time. The senators and congressmen were friendly and willing to listen.”

In addition to speaking to lawmakers, the family went on a sightseeing tour and visited the National Museum of American History. The family also enjoyed a “Star Spangled Celebration” put on by N.A.C.H. which featured dinner, a live band and other kid-friendly entertainment.

“I think Abbigail’s favorite part of the trip was dancing with the band,” Rita Peters said.