|Winter Haven Teen Shares All Children's Hospital Story in Nation's Capitol|
The first patient to receive a heart transplant at All Children's Hospital traveled to Washington, DC this week to share his story with members of the Florida Congressional delegation. Seventeen-year-old Hunter Ratcliffe of Winter Haven met with four members of Congress and one Senator as part of Family Advocacy Day on Tuesday, July 24. The event, organized by the national Children's Hospital Association, is meant to remind legislators of the real families impacted by their decisions on children's healthcare issues.
Hunter was only six weeks old when he became All Children's first heart transplant recipient in June of 1995. His parents Cathy and Jeff, who accompanied Hunter on his Capitol Hill visits, credit the excellent care he continues to receive at All Children's with not only saving his life but helping him to live that life to the fullest. Hunter will be a senior this fall at Lake Region High School, where he is an acclaimed kicker on the football team and soccer goalie. Hunter called his Capitol experience "a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to speak for kids like me."
"This has been an incredible experience," said Hunter's dad Jeff. "There are lives in the balance when these legislators make funding and policy decisions related to kids. We were amazed to be part of the discussions, and are even more impressed with the work of All Children's Hospital to advocate for kids and families like ours."
All Children's Executive Vice President & Chief Administrative Officer Arnie Stenberg visited the delegation offices along with the Ratcliffe family, emphasizing the importance of a strong Medicaid program. All Children's is the largest Medicaid provider of children's health services in the state of Florida, with nearly 70% of its patients relying on Medicaid funding. Equally important, says Stenberg, is the need to maintain or increase funding of the Children's Hospital Graduate Medical Education program, which provides freestanding children's hospitals likes All Children's with federal funding similar to what adult teaching hospitals receive through Medicare. CHGME supports the training of over 6,000 physicians annually and nearly 50% of all pediatric residency training throughout the nation.