Seeing The Big Picture

This past Saturday, my family and I joined many of my students at Fishers High School in raising funds for Riley Hospital at our Dance Marathon. Our grand total was more than $20,000. Along with saying "thanks" to everyone who participated in or supported the great event, I wanted to share the very personal Riley story I told when I was asked to speak during the Dance Marathon:

Two years ago, my son Ben, who had not been walking for long, began falling down. His balance deteriorated to the point where he regressed to crawling. He would wake up frequently, in pain and looking disoriented, clutching his stuffed zebra. Finally, after our third visit, the pediatrician suggested a CAT scan. On April 18, 2011, Ben was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Ben and I rode in an ambulance to Riley Hospital, where his surgery was scheduled for April 20.

With brain cancer, removal of the tumor is the first and most important step. Simply put, if the whole tumor does not come out, then the child does not survive. Put yourself in the hallway of the surgical room with my wife and me, looking down out our toddler son as he's about to be wheeled away for one of the world's most complicated medical procedures: removal of a large cancer from a toddler's developing brain.

This is the center of our picture. Now draw a line outward and see the connection between this boy and his uncomprehending older brother squirming around in the surgical waiting room, look at the worried faces of Ben's grandparents and aunt, then realize these relationships now hang in the balance. Step back and take a look at a larger picture, see the connections between Ben's neurosurgeon and the university system that trained him, to the researchers poring over the findings of clinical trials, looking for patterns that can be translated into successful treatments. Connect this part of the picture with the radiation research team in Bloomington, where new and effective methods of post-operative treatment had recently been developed. Now take an even larger view: See the lines of connection between the doctors, the researchers, the universities, and now the fundraisers that make this all possible.

Then you'll see that the tens of thousands of fundraising efforts, large and small, at the edges are not wasted. That each image of a young person dancing, of a teacher contributing, of a student throwing her change into bucket all directly impact the work that work that Riley's staff is able to do. Then, when the connections are drawn and the bigger picture emerges, you will realize that you are Riley Hospital for Children and that the center of this picture is only as strong as the edges allow for it to be.

Now put yourself in the office of a pediatric oncologist, and imagine how you feel two years later, when you are told that after four surgeries and 32 radiation treatments that your son is still healthy and in remission.

Then you'll see that this picture has a caption.

It says, Ben Lives.

Chris Edwards, Ed. D.

Chris Edwards, Ed.D, teaches AP World History teacher at Fishers High School, and is the author of several books including 'Teaching Genius: Redefining Education with Lessons from Science and Philosophy.' Chris donates the royalties from 'Teaching Genius' to Riley Children's Foundation in support of pediatric cancer research at Riley Hospital. Chris and his wife Beth live in New Palestine are the parents of two boys, Blake, and Ben, who is doing well after being treated at Riley for a cancerous brain tumor.

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