A few weeks ago, a former president and many of his Secret Service agents made a significant sacrifice on behalf of another young American that went largely unnoticed by most of the nation. Did you catch it?
My friend and our 41st president, 89-year-old George H.W. Bush, in solidarity with his Secret Service detail, shaved his head for 2-year-old Patrick — the son of one of Bush’s former agents — who has leukemia and is undergoing chemotherapy for it.
The Bush Protective Division launched a website, at http://www.patrickspals.org to help with Patrick’s medical bills. It also is spearheading the inaugural Patrick’s Pals Motorcycle Benefit Run on Aug. 10 in Kennebunkport, Maine, which is a 50-mile motorcycle ride through the countryside, with a lunch and silent auction to follow.
When Bush decided to lose his hair in support of young Patrick, many of us were reminded of Bush’s own precious and brave daughter Robin, who died from leukemia 60 years ago at age 3.
George W. Bush was born first in 1946. Pauline Robinson Bush — known as Robin — was born second in 1949. She was diagnosed with leukemia right after her brother Jeb was born in 1953.
Barbara Bush recollected those tough times during an interview with her granddaughter Jenna Bush Hager for the Today show. After Robin’s prognosis, the former first lady said, the Bushes were told there was nothing they could do. A doctor said: “You don’t do anything. She’s going to die. … My advice is to take her home, love her. In about two weeks, she’ll be gone.”
Of course, the Bushes weren’t going to give up that easily. Instead, they opted for Robin’s aggressive treatment, including painful blood marrow tests, blood transfusions and chemotherapy. It wasn’t easy on Robin or her parents, but they all faced their fears courageously for Robin’s sake.
The Los Angeles Times explained: “In his 1987 biography Looking Forward, Bush said prayer helped him and his wife through Robin’s treatment: ‘Barbara and I sustained each other; but in the end, it was our faith that truly sustained us, as gradually but surely, Robin slipped away.’”
Though the treatment extended her life by roughly six months, Robin went home to heaven Oct. 11, 1953, two months before her fourth birthday.
Barbara shared: “I was combing her hair and holding her hand. I saw that little body. I saw her spirit go.”
Robin initially was laid to rest in Greenwich, Conn., but her grave and its small headstone — reading simply, “Robin” — now are in a small family plot behind a serene and beautiful garden and pond area at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum in College Station, Texas.
After Robin’s passing, the Los Angeles Times reported, the Bushes began the Bright Star Foundation, raising funds and awareness about leukemia in Robin’s honor.
According to the American Cancer Society, leukemia is the most common cancer in children and teens, accounting for roughly 1 in 3 cancer cases. It is a type of blood cancer that begins in the bone marrow and is associated with an abnormal increase in immature white blood cells.
Thanks to the hard work of countless souls and scientists over the decades, “better technology, as well as cells and DNA preserved from patients treated in the 1960s, has improved outcomes for children. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital estimates the survival rate for the most common type of childhood leukemia has increased from 4 percent in 1962 to 94 percent today,” the Times reported.
Now there’s positive testimony for cancer research and advanced medical technology!
In honor of the Bushes’ valiant work through the years to fight and raise funds for leukemia and cancer research, the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston opened the Robin Bush Child and Adolescent Clinic in 2004.
You may not agree with every political action of Bush’s, but you can’t deny that he and Barbara Bush are first-class leaders, Americans, parents and grandparents. They belong to an elite class of integrity-filled national and global leaders who not only talk their talk but walk their walk. And for them to show solidarity with a 2-year-old leukemia patient at their ripe age is just one more example in a long lineage of a couple who are stellar models for us all.
My wife Gena and I are honored to call the former president and first lady our dear friends. They have helped out myriad causes and children over the decades, including our own children’s foundation, KickStart Kids.
And there’s no stopping them on the good will adventure train until they themselves pull up to heaven’s depot to be reunited with their dear little Robin.
Speaking of great trips, I’ve heard that Bush desires again to skydive for his 90th birthday! I jumped with him on his 80th birthday, but I don’t think he’s had too much success talking Mrs. Bush into letting him do another jump since then.
Maybe he might increase his chances with Barbara if we were to go in tandem?
Of course, an all-discerning Barbara won’t be swayed by a tough guy like me. And I doubt very highly anyway that the uber-qualified former president, who was also the head of the CIA and bailed out of a fiery plane in World War II, needs my help in skydiving, even at 90 years old.
Mr. and Mrs. Bush, thank you for being the brightest among a thousand points of light — a supernova example and legacy in the fight for God and country and the fight against diseases such as leukemia.
Our lives, country and world are better off because of you.
For more information about leukemia — its symptoms and treatments — go to http://www.cancer.org/cancer/leukemiainchildren