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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
St. Jude's Hospital
Aired December 9, 2006 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight, Marlo Thomas and the fight to save children from deadly diseases like cancer. It's a battle that her dad, Danny Thomas, started by founding the revolutionary St. Jude Children's Research Hospital where top doctors treat all kids for free. You're going to meet some inspiring courageous children and a lot more next on LARRY KING LIVE.
We're so proud to do this show tonight, a very special hour devoted to one very special place the St. Jude Research Children's Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. And, with us to tell us all about it, later we'll be meeting doctors, directors and children, is Marlo Thomas, the actress, producer, author and social activist, honored with four Emmys, a Golden Globe, the George Foster Peabody Award and many others.
She's inducted into the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame and she's the national outreach director for the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. And, of course, she is also Mrs. Phil Donahue.
A little history, your father founded it?
MARLO THOMAS: He certain did. He certainly did. You know, I was thinking my father grew up so poor and in his whole life, in his whole childhood in that neighborhood of all these immigrant parents and immigrant families he was one of ten kids he never went to the doctor. My grandmother had ten babies and none of them were delivered by a doctor. In fact, my father was delivered by a horse doctor.
KING: Your father to his regret should have gone more later in life, right?
THOMAS: Absolutely, he should have taken care of himself.
KING: So, how did this come about?
THOMAS: What happened was he saw all these sick kids that never got to go to the doctor. A child in his neighborhood died of a rodent bite. Children died of influenza.
And, he remembers these little coffins going up the street to the church at the end of the street and he really felt the injustice of kids that didn't get to go to the doctor and that was in his head, you know, all of his life.
And then, when he started to try to find work, because he didn't really ever want to be on welfare the way his dad was, he wanted to grow up and be able to take care of his family. And so, when I was about to be born my father needed $50 to get me and my mother out of the hospital. Daddy always said, you know, my sister cost $5,000. My brother cost $500. But I was definitely the bargain baby. I cost $50 and he didn't have it. He had $10 to his name. He was like a radio comic and a nightclub comic.
And he went to church that Sunday and the sermon was about St. Jude, patron of the hopeless cases and my father thought if anybody is a hopeless case it's me, so he got the little envelope and he put $7 of his $10 in there and he said to St. Jude on the envelope, "I need ten times this to get my kid and my wife out of the hospital."
And the next day he got a call because he said to St. Jude, "Just give me some direction in life. I'm not telling you to make me a star. I'm not even saying make me successful. I'm just saying guide me in the right way so I'm not a bum. Just guide me."
And so, the next day he gets a call and it's for a singing toothbrush on a radio commercial and the pay is $75 and it was my dad's first sign. And, you know, you knew my dad.
KING: Very well.
THOMAS: And he was not a religious guy.
THOMAS: But he was a guy of faith. He was a man of faith and he got these signs all through his life and he thought someday I'm going to build something to help hopeless kids with helpless diseases.
KING: When did it open?
THOMAS: In 1962.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANNY THOMAS: It is true it took a rabble rousing hook-nosed comedian to get your attention but it took your heart and your loving mind and your generous souls to make this fabulous dream come true.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: I remember when he had the idea.
KING: He told me about it in Miami.
THOMAS: That's right and what year was that?
KING: It first started -- '57.
THOMAS: That's right.
KING: He started raising funds. THOMAS: Yes, all by himself and was -- that's what was so amazing. And, another amazing thing that happened a lot of people wanted it to be in Boston or St. Louis or someplace.
KING: Yes, why Memphis?
THOMAS: And he read in the paper about a little black boy in Mississippi who was on his bike, eight years old, and he was hit by a car and because no hospital in Mississippi would take him he died.
And, my father cut that clipping out of the paper and put it in his wallet and he carried it for years. And, finally one day he just said "That's it. I'm putting my hospital in the south." An it was the first fully integrated hospital in the south.
And what was interesting is when he went down there he met with this Dr. Lamil Diggs (ph) who was a really brilliant researcher and Diggs said to him, "If you really want to help kids, Danny, don't just build another hospital. Don't just try to make kids better. Try to find out what makes them sick."
He said, "What we should do is build a research center and a treatment center under one roof for the study of catastrophic diseases in children" and it was the first and it is today the only.
KING: Whose idea was it not to charge?
THOMAS: My father's of course.
KING: No bills right?
THOMAS: No bills. Two promises he made.
KING: If you're rich you could make a donation though (INAUDIBLE).
THOMAS: If you're rich, we're happy to take your donations.
KING: But you don't bill people?
THOMAS: We don't bill anybody, rich or poor. If you have insurance, we'll take it but that was part of the dream of my dad's and part of his promise, two promises. One that no child would ever be turned away if a family couldn't pay and, two, all of our research and all of our discoveries would be immediately and freely shared with the scientific community worldwide. So, we're impacting the lives of kids in every community in this country.
KING: If you're learning about this for the first time this is an incredible story.
THOMAS: It is.
KING: First it's so much part of the culture. People think it's been around 100 years.
THOMAS: I know.
KING: How many beds do you have?
THOMAS: Well, we only have about 70 beds but we're putting up 300 or 400 families in the area. The beauty of it is my dad always said he didn't want the kids to live in the hospital and they're outpatients. You know when you have cancer you don't have to live in the hospital. You have to be there for your operations and when you're really ill and when you need, you know (INAUDIBLE).
KING: Nobody is refused?
KING: What do you have to have?
THOMAS: You have to be referred by a doctor. We have to be studying a disease that you have and that's about it.
KING: So, you're studying cancer.
THOMAS: We're studying cancer.
KING: What other, are you studying heart disease?
THOMAS: We're studying influenza because influenza kills many, many children through the year.
THOMAS: Pneumonia because, as you know, people with suppressed immune systems die of pneumonia. So, the studies that we're doing on pneumonia will help adults, will help people with AIDS.
KING: But the child is first treated right? He's not a guinea pig.
THOMAS: Oh, yes. No, no, no, no, no, no. It's a research institution so we're working on things that nobody else knows. We're working on what we don't know. We're trying to figure out -- take, for example, ALL, that's the most common form of cancer in children is Acute Lympholastic Leukemia and when you meet little Isabelle today that's what she has.
KING: I'm going to meet her in a little while.
THOMAS: And, when my dad opened the doors of St. Jude four percent of the children with this disease survived and through the years we have through our research a couple of years ago we announced an 80 percent cure rate and last year we announced an 86 percent cure rate.
KING: Totally supported by private giving?
KING: And government grants?
THOMAS: And government grants. Seventy-two percent of our money comes from the public. That's really fascinating.
KING: We'll take a break. By the way, you know, everyone is wearing bracelets. This is the green bracelet, the St. Jude. I love the idea. There's an adult bracelet and a child bracelet.
THOMAS: Yes, you can buy that on our Web site.
KING: Thankful for you. And your Web site is what?
KING: It's only $2, one for you, one for the kid, www.stjude.org. We'll be right back with Marlo Thomas, lots more to come. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBIN WILLIAMS: One cell can grow into a parent's worst fear.
WILLIAMS: That's right. It's a big name for a bad cancer. St. Jude Children's Research Hospital invented a brand new way to treat Paul's tumor. Today, you're cancer free.
WILLIAMS: And hospitals here and internationally are using Paul's treatment to save other kids too. So, Paul, you've gone international. What's next?
PAUL: Seventh grade.
WILLIAMS: Seventh grade, girls get ready.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Tonight, Marlo Thomas and the fight to save children from deadly diseases like cancer. It's a battle that her dad, Danny Thomas, started by founding the revolutionary St. Jude's Children Research Hospital.
JP Morgan, Sears, Kay Jewelers but what is the Thanksgiving?
THOMAS: (INAUDIBLE), Pottery Barn, lots of them.
KING: You've added. You've added.
KING: What's the Thanksgiving thing? THOMAS: Thanksgiving, thanks and giving, which starts the day after Thanksgiving on Black Friday. It's a retail campaign.
KING: So, it started already?
THOMAS: Yes, started on Friday and what we're saying to America is, you know, give thanks for the kids in your lives who are healthy and give to those who are not because someday...
KING: Because you're lucky if they are.
KING: It's only luck.
THOMAS: That's right.
KING: Don't walk around boasting your kids are healthy.
THOMAS: That's right, exactly.
KING: You have nothing to do with it.
THOMAS: That's right. And, we're really saying you're out there shopping. You're having a great time spending a lot of money. Think about these kids and think about how lucky you are to have a healthy kid and put some money there on the table for the children who really need this research.
KING: And where do you do this at various...
THOMAS: At all these stores where you can add on $1 or $3 or $5.
KING: So, you'll see it in many stores?
THOMAS: You'll see it in many stores. You'll see that green logo and the magnifying glass.
KING: And you can add it to your Visa card.
THOMAS: You can add it to your card, any card you have.
KING: And you can drop change in.
THOMAS: You can go to Kay Jewelers and buy bears. You can buy, go to 7-Eleven and buy bears. You can...
KING: You got all these people to cooperate during the busiest retail month of the year, Christmas.
THOMAS: Yes, yes, St. Jude works in amazing ways, faith in the hopeless cases. All of these people...
KING: Who did it? Are you the one who went out and promoted it?
THOMAS: I did. We have a whole team but we did go out and meet all these people and ask them. And, you know, it's interesting the hospital has been there since 1962. An awful lot of people have been affected by it and you don't have to go to Memphis to be affected by St. Jude.
Our research is in every hospital in this country. There is a lot of wonderful children's hospitals in this country and we collaborate with many of them. We're the epicenter for brain research in this country. There's a consortium of eleven, ten, eleven hospitals and St. Jude is the epicenter for brain research.
We have an AIDS vaccine in safety trials. We're doing bone marrow transplants with a parent's marrow. We're doing such amazing cutting edge kind of work and all of the hospitals learn from us and collaborate with us.
So, this is a chance to say to the American public, you know, this is a national resource so take part and, you know, it's an interesting thing what I've learned now from being at this hospital and working with it is the only health insurance that you really have is research. If there's no research for your disease, there's no hope. The hope comes from the research, so we're working on stuff.
The reason we went from a four percent cure rate to an 86 percent cure rate is by hammering away at that and figuring out why do some children get better and some children not get better?
KING: Are you one of the institutions pushing for stem cell?
THOMAS: Oh, sure and you'll talk to Dr. Evans about that.
THOMAS: But the -- and so when we reach out to the public, 72 percent of our money comes from the public. The average hospital gets eight percent from the public, so the public is really our life blood and something that I'm proud to say is 84 cents on every dollar goes to the hospital. That's a big percentage.
KING: And also you fly a lot of these people to Memphis right?
THOMAS: We pay for everything. We fly them to Memphis. We pay for their housing and their food and their medication and their drugs. Now, we have their treatment.
KING: There's no cost.
THOMAS: There's no cost. We've got some great partners though. The great Target Corporation build us 100 two-bedroom apartments. Tiger Woods donated the library. The Memphis Grizzlies basketball team gave us another 100 two-bedroom apartments. The McDonald House gave us the entire house for just our kids. So, we're putting up 300 children.
Before Target came along we were paying for 51,000 hotel nights a year to keep my father's promise that no child was ever turned away for a family's inability to pay. We've got some very wealthy people down there right now and they're not going to pay.
KING: But, if they want to give they'll give.
THOMAS: But they'll give, absolutely. But, it's -- that's the miracle of it because what it's about is the study of disease.
KING: Your father died when?
THOMAS: He died 15 years ago.
KING: So, he got to see a lot of this?
THOMAS: Oh, yes. He didn't get to see us win the Nobel Prize. You know he always talked about the Nobel.
KING: When did you get that?
THOMAS: And I went to Stockholm for it for immunology. Dr. Peter Doherty, the chief of our immunology department, won the prize for discovering the whole action of the T cells and that, of course, is the center of the immune system so it's a huge discovery. But I went to that and I'll tell you I just -- I just cried the whole day.
KING: Your father's spirit was there I'll bet.
THOMAS: Yes. I thought, daddy, you know, this is what he dreamt of. And when he used to say "We're going to win the Nobel someday" we'd say "Oh, yes, sure dad" but we got it and it was a thrill. And, it's a great magnet for other great (INAUDIBLE).
KING: How often do you go there?
THOMAS: St. Jude, oh, I'm there at least once a month.
KING: Now, these retail outlets are in many malls right?
THOMAS: Oh, yes.
KING: You will not miss it right?
THOMAS: Absolutely. You'll see that green -- that magnifying glass that says "We never stop looking for cures." That's really, that's our motto. We never stop looking for cures.
KING: And people who should give the most are the people with healthy children because they're lucky.
THOMAS: They really are. After my father died, I was afraid to go back there because my sister and brother and I took over my dad's jobs and we went there for the first time after his death and I thought, oh, this is going to be really hard, you know. It's all over, he's all over, his spirit is all over the place. Anyway, I walked in and there was a party going on, cake and ice cream and party hats and little kids throwing silly putty and confetti and everything and I said to the nurse, "Whose birthday is it"? And, she said "Oh, it's not a birthday party. It's an off chemo party."
They give a party every time a kid goes off chemo. And all these little kids are deriving strength from this other kid's turn for the better. The parents are cheering on everybody's kids so that maybe their kid will make it. And it's so joyful.
KING: And we're calling this give thanks?
THOMAS: It's called the thanks and giving campaign.
KING: Thanks and giving and the Web site is www.stjude.org.
KING: You can hit the Web site, send in $2. You'll get these green bracelets, one for you, one for the...
THOMAS: Or just donate.
KING: Or just donate. And when we come back you're going to meet a mother and little Isabelle. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH JESSICA PARKER: What if the present you wanted couldn't be bought? Cassidy (ph) had cancer and then they found her little body couldn't process the drugs needed to save her life. At St. Jude Children's Research Hospital doctors lead the world in designing treatments customized to each child. Now, Cassidy has hope. The best gifts don't come in boxes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: This is our special salute to a special place, St. Jude Children's Hospital Research Center in Memphis founded by Danny Thomas and the tradition carried on by his daughter Marlo, who remains with us.
And we're now joined by Teri Morin, the mother of little Isabelle Morin, who was diagnosed with cancer last year. Isabelle is a 4-year- old patient at St. Jude Hospital Children's Research Center currently being treated for leukemia.
In June, 2004, Isabelle was three years old. Her mom took her to the doctor for what she suspected was swimmer's ear. Instead, Isabelle was diagnosed with acute -- how do I pronounce it?
KING: Lymphoblastic leukemia or ALL and referred to St. Jude Hospital Research Center to begin treatment. What do you mean swimmer's ear?
TERI MORIN, DAUGHTER ISABELLE BEING TREATED AT ST. JUDE HOSPITAL: She awoken the next morning and she had a terrible earache and I called her physician and they prescribed swimmer's ear drugs. It was a terrible ear pain.
KING: And how did you know about St. Jude?
MORIN: Her physician that we went to said he wanted to send Isabelle to the best place in the world and I said "Where is that"? It happened to be St. Jude.
KING: Where do you live?
MORIN: We happen to live in Memphis, Tennessee.
KING: Oh, but you happen to live there but they could have lived in Scotland, right (INAUDIBLE)?
MORIN: We could have lived in Scotland.
KING: How are you doing Isabelle?
ISABELLE MORIN: Fine.
KING: Fine. Do you watch the food channel?
I. MORIN: Yes.
I. MORIN: I like to see what's going on, on the food channel.
KING: Do you want to be a cook?
I. MORIN: Yes.
KING: Yes. You like Emeril huh?
I. MORIN: Yes.
T. MORIN: Tell him what you like to make.
I. MORIN: I like to make chicken and dumplings.
KING: Now what do they do for you at the hospital?
I. MORIN: I get my treatment each day a day so my mommy takes me each day there like and so we have all of these projects going on and you have to eat fish too (ph).
KING: Are you getting better? I. MORIN: Yes.
KING: Yes, how is she doing?
T. MORIN: She's doing very well. St. Jude provides a positive environment and she's done extremely well and has a lot of energy and we're really proud of her and how well she's doing. She has wonderful doctors and nurses and she's in the best of care.
KING: What's the prognosis?
T. MORIN: In 1964 it would have been four percent but today...
KING: Four percent make it?
T. MORIN: Yes but today it's over 86 percent.
KING: That she will grow up and lead a full life.
T. MORIN: Yes, she'll grow up and live a full life thanks to people that have generously given to St. Jude over the years. This is a -- this is why Isabelle is here tonight.
KING: And what does she get chemo?
THOMAS: You tell him.
T. MORIN: Yes, she gets chemo once a week and the treatment of leukemia is two and a half years and we're a year and a half into her treatment and she has another year to go. She's doing very well.
THOMAS: Tell Mr. King what you just said when you woke up at St. Jude. What did you think?
I. MORIN: I think it was like Disney World.
KING: Like what?
THOMAS: Disney World.
KING: What's the little red wagon story?
I. MORIN: So, when I told my mommy said this is like Disney World.
THOMAS: Because we don't have wheelchairs. We use real red wagons to pull the kids.
T. MORIN: Right.
KING: Oh, yes.
T. MORIN: She was so ill that when she first got to St. Jude she could not walk or kind of lift her head up and we were -- I was pulling her through the halls of St. Jude and she raised her head up and she said, "Mommy, this looks like Disney World" because all the walls are painted so beautiful that I think she...
KING: You're so beautiful Isabelle. Were you worried?
I. MORIN: No.
KING: No? She's a confident kid.
T. MORIN: Yes, she is but St. Jude provided a very positive environment for her.
KING: What did you know about St. Jude before this?
T. MORIN: You know it's something that you...
KING: You live in Memphis.
T. MORIN: Yes, right. It's something that you think that will never happen to you and it's something that you think that you'll see, you know, you see happening to other people and unfortunately I didn't know a lot about St. Jude. There are children at St. Jude from all around the world getting treatment there that have traveled from Brazil and everywhere around the country to get treatment.
KING: You're imitating me now, aren't you? Hey, I got a boy for you.
T. MORIN: Oh, let's see.
KING: Want to see him? I got two boys. One is six and one is five and a half. This one is five and a half and I think the two of you...
T. MORIN: Oh.
KING: ...are well suited.
THOMAS: What do you think Isabelle? You could make him some chicken and dumplings couldn't you?
I. MORIN: Yes.
KING: What do you think? Cute? Cute huh? That's Cannon King.
T. MORIN: He's cute.
KING: Oh, look at that. He would love to meet you. Maybe we could set this up?
T. MORIN: Maybe so.
KING: So she goes every day?
T. MORIN: No, she goes once a week now. In the very beginning she had intensive therapy of chemo but she's doing very well now and she has -- she goes once a week.
KING: Is she in preschool?
T. MORIN: At the moment she's not in preschool but she will start preschool.
KING: How does this make you feel, you Marlo (INAUDIBLE).
THOMAS: I mean look this is it. Here's the dream. Here's the dream. You know like her mom said she wouldn't be here.
T. MORIN: Right.
I. MORIN: Mommy, scratch my back.
THOMAS: She wouldn't be here. Scratch your back?
KING: Scratch her back.
THOMAS: This little bundle...
KING: Did she lose her hair?
T. MORIN: Yes, she did.
THOMAS: Yes, she did. She did.
THOMAS: You can show (INAUDIBLE).
KING: Did she have much nausea?
T. MORIN: In the very beginning she did but now she's very used to the chemo and she does very well.
KING: Do you have a friend Savannah, yes, she's your girlfriend?
I. MORIN: Yes.
KING: Yes. What is she, a patient?
I. MORIN: Just my friend.
KING: Just your friend?
I. MORIN: And a patient too.
KING: And a patient too.
KING: She has cancer too?
T. MORIN: Yes, she does and they've become very good friends and they like to cook together and talk about cooking and they go to St. Jude and get their chemo. They're doing very well both of them are.
THOMAS: She's the whole reason, Larry. This is the...
KING: This is the reason.
T. MORIN: Yes.
THOMAS: This is the reason. This is why we do it.
T. MORIN: This is the reason that people support St. Jude (INAUDIBLE).
KING: Now your husband flies for FedEx.
T. MORIN: Yes, he does.
KING: He could afford this.
T. MORIN: Right.
KING: Do you make contributions to the hospital? They don't bill you right?
T. MORIN: Right. Yes, they don't bill you but now we make contributions to the hospital and we've learned how important it is to make contributions to the hospital.
KING: Thank you very much, Teri.
T. MORIN: Thank you.
KING: The best of luck. She's going to live a long time and she's going to be beautiful and maybe meet Cannon someday. All right, Isabelle, now follow me, say goodbye.
I. MORIN: Goodbye.
KING: Goodbye. This is why we do this. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAY ROMANO: One cell can grow into a parent's worst fear. For Carson's mom and dad it was a rare brain tumor. Even if a breakthrough could save Carson's life, could it save her brain's ability to learn? At St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Carson's doctors pioneered a new approach, never been done before to save both.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All done.
ROMANO: It worked. How did you get so smart?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Welcome back to this very special edition of LARRY KING LIVE. We're saluting the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. We've given you the Web site. Here's the 800 number for any information, donations, whatever, is 1-800-4ST-JUDE.
Naturally Marlo Thomas remains with us. She's almost the exec producer tonight, helping put this together.
And joining us now is Adovia Alston. Adovia's 11-year-old daughter and former patient at St. Jude's, currently in remission, diagnosed with medulloblastoma, the most common malignant brain tumor. She was treated in October 2003 for nine months, and now goes back every three months for check-ups. Her unusual name comes from her uncle, who dreamt it.
Her mother is Stacy Powe. Stacy is remarried, and obviously her husband's name is Powe. She is the mother of Adovia, who was, we said, was diagnosed with the brain tumor. And Dr. Larry Kun is the chair of radiological sciences, one of the leaders of the National Pediatric Brain Tumor Consortium, co-leader of St. Jude's neurobiology and brain tumor program.
How common are brain tumors in children?
DR. LARRY KUN, CHAIR, RADIOLOGICAL SCIENCES, ST. JUDE CHILDREN'S RESEARCH HOSPITAL: Brain tumors are the second most common form of cancer in kids. About 20 percent of all kids with cancer have brain tumors.
KING: Do we know why?
KUN: No, not really why that is. It's one of the areas that's developing very rapidly in young children. And a lot of the tumors that occur in kids are tumors that occur sort of as a malformation of development.
KING: Did you treat Adovia?
KUN: We are one of the team that treated Adovia.
KING: How did you discover it, Stacy?
STACY POWE, DAUGHTER ADOVIA IN REMISSION FROM BRAIN TUMOR, WAS ST. JUDE'S PATIENT: She was just complaining of headaches, in a matter of two days. That's all.
KING: Two days?
POWE: Two days. She complained of headaches for two days.
KING: Where do you live?
POWE: In Detroit.
KING: You took her to a neurologist?
POWE: I took her to the local children's hospital in Detroit. They did a CT scan and immediately saw the brain tumor. KING: And did they recommend St. Jude?
POWE: Well, what we did, the family went on the Web site and we researched on St. Jude, and immediately got her there. That was the best treatment for her, and that's why we got her there.
KING: Even though Detroit has a famous children's hospital.
POWE: Yeah. But St. Jude is famous for the research, the better treatment, and we just figured we'd better get her there. That's where we wanted her to be.
KING: How old are you, Adovia?
ADOVIA ALSTON, FORMER ST. JUDE'S PATIENT: I'm 11.
KING: How did you feel when you heard this?
ALSTON: I didn't feel really scared.
ALSTON: No. Because I knew St. Jude wasn't really -- it doesn't look like a real hospital. It looks like -- like camp or something.
KING: So the place didn't make you nervous?
KING: Were you afraid of having a brain tumor?
ALSTON: No. Because I knew it wasn't going to hurt.
KING: It stopped hurting?
KING: Did the headaches continue for long?
KING: They didn't? How was she treated?
KUN: Adovia came to us after she had surgery in Detroit.
KING: The surgery did what, remove the tumor?
KUN: The surgery removed the tumor. Because it's malignant, even though it looks like it's removed, it requires additional therapy. And she's treated on a unique study that we've been doing, with both radiation therapy and chemotherapy. And Adovia is actually one of a number of kids where we've really tried to link the scientist with the patient. And so, children like Adovia, who present with this particular type of tumor, we actually take some tissue from the tumor and characterize that in a laboratory in such a way that it helps us determine whether this is a kind of tumor that's a relatively good actor or a relatively bad actor.
KING: What's her prognosis?
KUN: Very excellent, actually. She has an outstanding chance of...
KING: Long life?
KUN: ... living a long life, and particularly because we've been able to look at using less radiation therapy and less chemotherapy, because she did present as one of the so-called good actors. Adovia is one of the children where we really hope she'll grow up to live a very normal life.
KING: And this you gain from research, right, Marlo?
THOMAS: That's right. What they're doing is customized treatment. Every child isn't getting the same kind of treatment. And so what Dr. Kun is saying is that they take her DNA, her tissue into the lab, and they can figure out what's right for her. Not what's right for any kid. And that's why she is only getting what her little body needs and what her tumor needs, and she has -- she has her learning. She has her hearing. What else would be affected if she -- her growth?
KUN: These are -- the most important thing for kids in our society is their ability to learn normally, to have a normal intellect. And that's really one of the key goals in trying to customize treatment, so that you can really preserve that.
KING: How do you feel about all this, Stacy? Boy.
POWE: We're just -- we're blessed really, to be able to get to St. Jude and for them to treat her. We just were really blessed.
KING: Do they really give the personal attention that Marlo has been talking about?
POWE: Oh, yeah, they spoil the children.
KING: She's treated as Adovia.
POWE: She's treated as Adovia.
KING: She's not patient number 11.
POWE: No, she's treated as Adovia. Yes. And they do -- I mean, they just treat them -- they're individual, but they treat them like they're special children.
KING: Here's a typical hospital question, Adovia. How is the food?
ALSTON: It's good.
KING: You're sure? ALSTON: Yes.
KING: Not many hospitals can make that statement.
How long have you been associated with them, doctor?
KUN: With Adovia?
KING: No, with the hospital.
KUN: With St. Jude? Been at St. Jude now for 21 years.
KING: What rewards you must get.
KUN: The rewards are just phenomenal. The greatest thing is seeing a child like Adovia -- Adovia, what kind of grades are you getting in school?
ALSTON: Straight A's.
KING: Wow, back in Detroit?
KING: How often do you go to the hospital?
POWE: We go every three months. They fly us every three months.
KING: They fly you?
POWE: Yes. We don't pay anything.
KING: You've never gotten a bill of any kind?
POWE: Never. We were there for nine months, and they took care of everything.
POWE: Medication, our house. We stayed in a beautiful target house, two-bedroom apartment, furnished. Our food, our transportation, our activities, everything. The hospital paid for everything.
KING: What can we say? The St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital. Thanksgiving -- we're calling it...
THOMAS: Thanks and giving.
KING: Thanks and giving. You'll see it in all the retail malls, everything, many retail stores involved, anything you can give. Want to contribute other ways, you can go to www.stjude.org. You can call 1-800-4-STJUDE.
When we come back, we'll meet the director of all this. Thank you, and continued good luck, darling. You're a beautiful girl.
POWE: Thank you.
KING: We'll be right back with more of our special tribute to a very special place. Don't go away.
KING: We're back on this special tribute to St. Jude's. Joining us now is Dr. William Evans, the director and CEO of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, a pioneer in the emerging field of pharmocogenomis?
DR. WILLIAM EVANS, DIRECTOR & CEO, ST. JUDE'S CHILDREN RESEARCH HOSPITAL: Pharmacogenomics.
KING: Cogenomics. And Dr. Richard Webby, one of the world's leading experts in influenza vaccine and development.
How long have you been director, Dr. Evans?
EVANS: I've only been director for about a year, but I've been part of the faculty at St. Jude for almost 30 years come January.
KING: What's it like?
EVANS: It's incredible. I thought I would go there and possibly work five or six years, and it turned out to just be the best place where I could be to do the kind of research that I do, which is research with patients, but also working in a lab, to understand why some children respond to drugs differently than others. We now know it's a lot about the genetics.
KING: You're equally balanced between the children and the research?
EVANS: Absolutely. All of my research involves the patient.
KING: By children, Marlo, we're talking about what ages?
THOMAS: From birth to 19.
KING: Birth to 19.
And Dr. Webby, why are you -- what got you so interested in influenza?
DR. RICHARD WEBBY, FLU VACCINE EXPERT; ST. JUDE CHILDREN'S RESEARCH HOSPITAL FACULTY: I guess influenza is such a little beast, very tiny. But as Marlo said early on, in terms of being able to cause catastrophic diseases of any age group it's right up there amongst the top of those.
KING: Do you fear it becoming epidemic?
WEBBY: Oh, I think we all fear an epidemic and there are some nasty viruses out there at the moment, but now I think likely we've got some help on the way, including some new vaccines that are coming out of St. Jude.
KING: Do children get it the worst?
WEBBY: Yes. Certainly the influenza, it's like many infectious diseases targets all age groups, but it's really the very young and the very old that get hardest hit.
KING: Where are you from?
WEBBY: I'm from New Zealand.
KING: How do you like working there?
WEBBY: It's a fantastic place. You've seen sort of bits of it here.
KING: It's almost unbelievable.
WEBBY: Oh, it is. It's very unbelievable.
KING: Hospitals are usually, every time we talk a story about a hospital, they're strapped for funds. Are you?
EVANS: Well, we have to put our funds to good use because we don't have unlimited funds.
KING: And you don't have income?
EVANS: We don't have income. We have lots of grants. We have enormous public support. And what the public is saying is don't just give the best care, which is what we do every day, but do the research that makes that care better tomorrow. And that's really been the founding principle of St. Jude from the beginning.
We do a lot of things to help translate science and discoveries in the lab to the clinic. So we built a facility that allowed us to make a vaccine to this flu virus, H5N1 so that Dr. Webby didn't have to leave campus to make this vaccine. And he can tell you sort of how that facility...
KING: And the vaccine prevents the occurrence?
WEBBY: Yes. The National Institutes of Health are taking the virus created at St. Jude through a clinical trial in the U.S. at the moment. And, yes, it is showing some promise. We have a ways to go yet but it's certainly showing promise.
THOMAS: We have a GMP building, good manufacturing practices, it's an NIH/FDA word. And we're the only pediatric institution that has such a place. We can create our own drugs and vaccines. We created this flu vaccine that is being used now by NIH, and we created our AIDS vaccine in our own facility.
KING: In your mind is the patient as important as the research? WEBBY: Oh, certainly. Certainly.
KING: Because sometimes researchers--we get an image that the researcher gets so involved in the research that the patient is separate from it. He's more interested in looking at the test tube.
WEBBY: Well, I think one thing about St. Jude is that we share the same cafeteria as the children. And in a sense it's inspirational.
KING: You do?
EVANS: Yes, there's no doctors cafeteria. The scientists, the doctors, the patients, the families, the donors, the visitors, it's all in one place.
THOMAS: My dad said everything under one roof. Everybody eats together. So when a scientist is having lunch and a mother comes over to the scientist and says, this is my daughter, Amy, and she has Ewing's Sarcoma, when that scientist goes back and they've told me this...
KING: He knows this.
THOMAS: They're no longer working on Ewing's Sarcoma. They're working on Amy's disease.
KING: How young do you get them? Do you ever get neonatal?
EVANS: Yes, we do get some newborn children. Fortunately, it's not a common problem, but some brain tumors and some leukemias are in newborns. And it's a very challenging time.
KING: Is the hardest thing when you lose someone?
EVANS: Absolutely. You lose part of yourself. And it drives you to do more work, to do more science. Why did that child fail when 85 percent of the children are cured? Why are 15 percent failing?
And it's interesting even with the progress we've made where we're curing 80 percent, 85 percent of the most common type of cancer in children, cancer still kills more children in this country by disease than any other disease. Cancer.
So there's still, as Richard said, a lot of work to be done.
KING: Do you think St. Jude will grow more? Have you got expansion on your mind?
WEBBY: I would certainly like...
EVANS: We're constantly expanding, but we're always looking...
KING: Do you have room?
EVANS: Well, we do. But it's how to get better, not how to get bigger that we're focused on.
So really my job as director is to create an environment where doctors and scientists can do their best work. And that's all that the best scientists in the world want. They all know that they have a discovery to be made. What they need is the environment, the colleagues, the tools to make that discovery.
KING: Do you like visitors to come? I mean like if I wanted to go down and go through?
THOMAS: We love it. We love to show off. Come any time. We love it.
KING: I would love to go through. I knew Danny so well when it started. I remember when he came on my show in 1958 asking people to send in money. So I go back a way. But I've never been to it.
EVANS: You've got to feel it to really know it. You've got to be there.
THOMAS: And the doctors come from all over. Dr. Webby comes from New Zealand and Dr. Dougherty came from Australia and Dr. Puigh (ph) came from China. They come from all over.
KING: How big a staff?
EVANS: We have about 3,000 employees. There's probably about 500 scientists. And we have a place in the atrium of one building where we hang the flags of every country where our employees come from. There are 60 flags, 60 different countries.
KING: I salute you, Dr. Evans, Dr. Webby.
EVANS: Thank you.
WEBBY: Thank you, sir.
KING: And when we come back, more with Marlo Thomas and this incredible story. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One cell can grow into a parent's worst fear. Brain tumors, sickle cell, leukemia, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital is revolutionizing how the world treats them all. Our discoveries save kids in every community and no child is ever turned away because a family can't pay. While they're busy being kids, we're finding new cures to save them.
KING: We've been talking about thanks and giving. There's a book associated with it and a DVD.
KING: A CD. All with Marlo Thomas, all the proceeds go, where else, to St. Jude's. More information, call 1-800-4-STJude or www.stjude.org. This is thanks and giving month as we're in the month of December. You'll visit many retail outfits and you'll help St. Jude.
What's the Hope Catalog on the web site?
THOMAS: The Hope Catalog sells a lot of gifts like these bracelets and necklaces that say hope on it and cards.
KING: So you go to the web site and you can find a ton of things to buy?
THOMAS: Absolutely. All kinds of stuff, and the money goes to St. Jude. And this wonderful CD and book has Billy Crystal and Robin Williams and Faith Hill and Jimmy Buffett and all kinds of fantastic people gave their time to St. Jude.
KING: I bet you even got the people who printed the book to give their time. We know you Marlo.
THOMAS: We negotiated. We certainly did.
KING: What about the efforts with Katrina? What was your involvement with that? Memphis was close.
THOMAS: Yes. Well, Dr. Morrell, who is the chief medical officer, went and took two doctors and several nurses and social workers that they wanted, and we rescued these kids.
The children that had cancer, their records were gone. The computers were down. The hospitals were closed. And we rescued those critically ill kids because their cancer treatments were being interrupted. So we took them out of there. We airlifted them and brought them to St. Jude.
And like with all of our patients, free of charge we have been taking care of them. All together about 125 children that we rescued and took care of in various ways.
KING: Well, was this your decision?
THOMAS: No, absolutely not. I'm a fund-raiser. It's Dr. Evans' decision and Dr. Morrell's and our staff just immediately knew it was the right thing to do. They were there. They were lost. The records were lost. We were in a unique position to take care of them. We are a cancer research institution, and we could take these kids.
They'll die if they don't have their treatments. You can't just leave them there in a motel. You know, it's bad enough there's Katrina. But what about their cancer treatments? And their parents didn't know what to do.
KING: I'm also amazed at the speed. Now, the brain tumor patient described how they had the operation in Detroit, called you and was there almost the next day.
THOMAS: Right. Yes.
KING: How can you operate that quickly?
THOMAS: Well, you're dealing with life and death. You know, what these mothers didn't say, I think, because their girls were here, is that they would have died. I mean, they were close to death, both those girls. And their doctors said to them, get to St. Jude.
So many nurses and doctors tell me these kids come with their parents in the middle of the night. They show up at 2:00, 3:00 in the morning scared to death with their kids in their nightgowns. They have to come immediately and get started. Because, as you heard from Isabel's mother, she had that disease two weeks and she was rabid with it.
KING: Do you get many teens?
THOMAS: Yes, we have teens, sure.
KING: With cancer?
THOMAS: Yes, absolutely.
We have a teen room at St. Jude where you can only be 13 to 19 to go in the room because the teens want their own space because there's so many kids there.
KING: How important, you have been saying this so long, is attitude?
THOMAS: Well, it's a lot. And I think that's what St. Jude's focuses on. You know, they talk about it being Disneyland and the red wagons and all that. There's places to play.
Isabel cries when she has to go home. She wants to stay another night with her friends. She's playing. There's playgrounds. There's all kinds of crafts. They go to school there. They don't miss a day of school. Their teachers send their lessons so when they go back to school they're right on time.
And they have parties constantly, Halloween parties. They have Dr. Seuss' birthday and Cinderella's birthday, and just constant parties. And I've never been to a hospital in my life where you see a child on a tricycle pushing his IV pole.
You know, in most hospitals you have to be quiet. And you can't, you know, be on roller skates. Everything there is to keep the kids playful.
And the other thing we do that is psychologically so sound and so beautiful is that children who are in the hospital have a two-room suite so the mother and father can be behind a glass and see their child, but also be able to make phone calls and go in the room when they want to. But it's all done to keep the family whole. A child isn't going to be healthy if their parents break up. If the family -- for a kid to have cancer, there's an earthquake in the whole family.
And what St. Jude does is take care of the whole family. We have a sibling program. The program for the children. The program for the couple, family counselling. All of it to keep the family together.
KING: The amazing Marlo Thomas. Back with our remaining moments right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTONIO BANDERAS, ACTOR: One cell can grow into a parent's worst fear. Joshua had cancer. His parents were told treatment could cost half a million dollars. They were helpless to save him. He was only two.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm four now.
BANDERAS: St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Joshua was saved. So were his parents, because no family pays St. Jude for treatment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with Marlo Thomas, the St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital.
Do you have a waiting list or do people get -- do you make room?
THOMAS: We make room pretty much, absolutely. Because it's not about beds. You know, it's really about treatment and outpatient.
KING: So some could be in the hall? A lot of outpatients?
THOMAS: Yes, mostly outpatients are staying.
KING: So it's rare to have 70 beds full?
THOMAS: No, no, we have 70 beds full, sure.
But don't forget we're also treating children who aren't even there. We're talking to their doctors in other countries, in other states and they're using our protocol.
KING: This is worldwide.
You don't have to be at St. Jude's to get St. Jude's treatment.
KING: You also, quickly, co-chairman the museum of TV and radio's initiative to honor women's achievement called She Made It. Three year initiative launching with the announcement of honorees like Katie Couric and Dianne Sawyer and Barbara Walters and Oprah Winfrey, et cetera.
You feel this has been not put to the forefront?
THOMAS: What women?
KING: Yes. What do you think you've not been treated equally? You couldn't vote, so what?
THOMAS: I think what's important is that young girls and young women coming up see that there is a trail blazed, and they can see their ambitions in that trail, and they can see their possibilities.
And that's a very important thing for women studies. We do a lot of seminars at the Museum of Television and Radio.
KING: Do you get your activism from Phil or from Danny?
THOMAS: I think I get it from my grandmother.
KING: On your mother's side?
THOMAS: Yes, my mother's side. She was a suffragette.
THOMAS: Yes. She really fought for women's rights, played the drums in a beer garden until she was 80 years old. A really interesting woman. I think I got a lot from her and, of course, from my parents.
My father really -- you know, he had a good heart and he had big dreams. But he made them come true. He saw things and he said, you know, I can do this. I can gather the people to do this. And he lived long enough. He died in '91. It always stuns me when I say he died. It seems to be...
KING: How old was Danny?
And that's kind of young in these days. But he was able to see it from '62 to '91. He saw what had happened, and he always said, which I thought was so amazing, I know why I was born. I think that's such an amazing thing to be able to say. Most people say why are we here. He said I know why I was born.
KING: The best storyteller who ever lived.
KING: And he would be proud today of his daughter.
THOMAS: And my sister and brother.
KING: And your sister and brother.
KING: And that hospital.
KING: Wouldn't he? I mean, he would love it.
THOMAS: And he would be very grateful to you for giving us this hour to show off.
KING: Would he be happy with Phil's politics? That we're not sure.
THOMAS: Probably not. But he sure liked him.
KING: Oh, I know he did.
THOMAS: He liked him an awful lot.
KING: Marlo, I salute you.
This is called thanks and giving month...
KING: ..for the St. Jude's...
KING: ...Children's Research Hospital. Thanks and giving month. You'll visit a lot of retail outlets. In those retail outlets many of them supporting St. Jude's. You can drop money in. You can give money. You can add it to your Visa bill when you check out. It will make your Christmas feel better, and you'll be helping one of the great institutions in the world where they never give a bill.
Do you ever get mad when people are rich and they don't pay anything?
THOMAS: No, they never do that.
KING: No, I'd get ticked.
And if you want more information, www.stjude.org or 1-800-4- stjude.
Get the green bracelets and wear it proudly. And look at your children and thank someone, whoever you believe in or whatever you believe in, thank someone that they are healthy. And think of these kids you saw tonight.
Thank you, darling.
THOMAS: Thank you.
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