By Jessica Wehrman
Two-year-old Patrick Bibbee of Columbus doesn't say much, but he delivered a powerful message yesterday to members of Ohio's congressional delegation: Children's hospitals deserve support.
Patrick, high-spirited and full of energy, spent the first six months of his life at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus. His mother, Amanda, and father, Shannon, roamed Capitol Hill yesterday with representatives of Nationwide Children's Hospital, pushing Patrick in a stroller. Their message was simple: Thank you for supporting children's hospitals. Please continue to do so.
Nationwide, said Mrs. Bibbee, 30, "did everything they could" for her son. "And look at him now."
The trip to Capitol Hill is an annual one for Nationwide Children's Hospital representatives. They have asked for support for graduate medical education and children's research. This time, however, they decided to let Patrick tell the story.
He and his twin, Paige, were born prematurely -- at 23 weeks gestation. Paige struggled from the start, developing necrotizing enterocolitis, a condition where parts of the bowel begin to die. Patrick also had it, but not as severely.
Doctors could not save Paige. Patrick, meanwhile, endured nine surgeries, including on his bowels, eye and heart. While his mother stayed at the hospital around-the-clock, his father, an Army reservist based in Whitehall, was deployed to Iraq.
Mr. Bibbee, 36, said he had the option of not being deployed after his children were born so early. But he opted to do so, he said, because it meant his family was covered by TRICARE, the military health insurance. Private insurance would charge copays and other fees. His deployment also meant a raise in pay -- one that allowed his wife to quit her job and devote her time to Patrick's care.
Part of the reason he came to Washington, he said, was to emphasize the important role that military health insurance played in Patrick's recovery. He estimated it paid for about $2 million of care.
He also expressed gratitude for a bill, introduced by Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Upper Arlington, that further improved TRICARE's coverage of military children. That bill was included in last year's National Defense Authorization Act and became law last year.
Patrick, meanwhile, charmed Rep. Joyce Beatty, toddling over to hand her a baseball card with his picture on the front. Then he clapped his hands in glee.
"This is a miracle," said Beatty, D-Jefferson Township. "And we want more of these miracles."