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Lights at Washington County Hospital glow for uninsured

December 03, 2007|By HEATHER KEELS

To hundreds of donors who have contributed to this year's Tree of Lights campaign, each golden twinkle on the giant tree in front of Washington County Hospital represents a loved one honored or remembered.

To Kymberli Dixon, they represent opportunity.

As a speech pathologist for Washington County Health System's Total Rehab Care, Dixon dreads the conversation she knows will eventually come with many of her patients.

Days, weeks, or months into her work to help a child learn to speak normally, she often must tell parents their insurance coverage has run out - though the child's therapy is far from complete.

It's an unpleasant scenario that's all too common with pediatric rehab patients, program manager Khrysti Thompson said. About one out of every three children the Robinwood facility sees is uninsured or poorly insured, Thompson said.

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Starting in January, Dixon might not need to have as many of those conversations. The money raised from this year's Washington County Hospital Auxiliary Tree of Lights campaign - more than $15,000 so far - will go to help fund long-term physical, occupational and speech therapy for uninsured and poorly insured children, Tree of Lights chairwoman Sue Fiedler said.

Total Rehab Care administrative director Pamela McAfee said the money will help extend therapy services for many of the children whose insurance has run out and allow some new patients to receive evaluations, which, at a cost of about $500, can be one of the most expensive parts of therapy.

"We'll stretch it out as far as we possibly can," McAfee said.

Dixon was among several therapists from the facility who joined a crowd of about 70 people in the lobby of Washington County Hospital Sunday night to watch McAfee switch on the symbolic lights.

So far this year, the campaign has received 230 individual light donations, 100 "dove" donations, 54 "angel" donations, 57 $100 "life light" donations, and three $500 "circle of lights" donations, McAfee said. The campaign will continue to accept donations throughout December, she said.

At the ceremony Sunday night, the hospital's spiritual care services director, David Baker, looked out the lobby's window at the glittering lights reflected in the darkness of the pavement slick with a cold winter rain.

"What an appropriate symbol for a hospital that provides hope in the darkest times for people as they cope with illness, and all the pain and feelings that go with it," he said.

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