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Not Your Grandfather’s Children’s Hospital

The institutions that once saved young children are now destroying them.

(Photo by JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images)

In 1951, on a cold, snowy, windy April day, my parents and I were driving from Cheyenne to Colorado. Long before I-25 improved that journey, we were on two-lane U.S. 85 through tiny Nunn, whose water tower sign (“Watch Nunn Grow”) always made me laugh. None of us were smiling that day; we were anxious, not just about what we faced in Denver, but also about whether my father could stay on the highway, so limited was the visibility. It was agonizingly slow-going. 

At last, he saw an oncoming vehicle, pulled to the side of the road, and threw his door open. “I’ll ask him about the weather ahead,” he shouted over the howling wind, and was gone before my mother could stop him. When he slid back behind the wheel, he looked relieved. “It clears up at the state line.”


Incredibly, there was blue sky when we reached Colorado. We made our destination, Denver’s Children’s Hospital, and my appointment with the surgeon who performed breakthrough surgery to which my parents, somewhat reluctantly, consented, especially my father, who grew up when operations were successful, but patients died.

I was born in 1945 with a patent ductus arteriosus (PDA), a congenital heart defect explained to me as a hole in the heart. Specifically, a PDA lies between the two major blood vessels leading from the heart, which is normal before birth for the mother’s oxygenated blood to reach her baby. If it does not close soon after birth, however, the result is a continuous, machinery-like murmur accompanied by, among other symptoms, rapid breathing, shortness of breath, fatigue, poor weight gain, and ultimately heart failure. That was my fate months after my birth when my PDA did not close; I was sickly and puny.

The condition was discovered in 129 A.D. by Galen of Pergamon, a Greek anatomist and physician, but corrective surgery, hypothesized as early as 1907, was not successful until 1937, when performed on seven-year-old Lorraine Sweeney at Boston Children's Hospital. An in-house conflict there, two subsequent post-operative deaths demonstrating a need for more data, and the outbreak of World War II delayed further advancement. Little wonder that, in 1945, my parents were advised to await that progress.

The waiting ended in 1951 when Dr. John Benson Grow, “the father of cardiac surgery and vascular surgery” in the Rocky Mountain region, performed my surgery, one of the earliest in the West. Two years later, he saved another Wyoming infant with the first open-heart surgery at Denver Children’s Hospital.

Sadly, Colorado Children’s Hospital, as it is now known, is not the hospital that joined with Boston Children’s Hospital in saving hundreds of thousands of PDA babies each year, one of whom was my older son whose surgery three decades after mine seemed effortless. Alas, today both hospitals offer so-called gender-affirming care that includes sterilization and genital mutilation, which a recovering liberal friend calls “unscientific, bizarre, and cruel.”


Once at the forefront of saving children’s lives, why are they now actively destroying young lives and even butchering teens for which these hospitals receive not reproachment but the full-throated support of the nation’s political elite, medical establishment, and mainstream media?

First, to paraphrase John O’Sullivan’s famous law, any entity not openly right of center becomes left of center, which is true of the medical community and the body politic. Sadly, our culture enthusiastically embraces the latest trendy, woke, politically correct psychobabble. That is especially true when it is deemed “science” and carries “expert” approval. Here, it does: the American Academy of Pediatrics and World Professional Association for Transgender Health declared those unthinkable practices the “standard of care,” triggering politicians who, not wanting to be left behind, jumped on the bandwagon.

Second, follow the money. Tennessee was shocked when Vanderbilt officials bragged of the huge sums to be made for the university by providing gender-affirming therapy, not just from the initial treatments, prescriptions, and surgeries, but also from life-long care necessitated by the initial, self-serving diagnosis. Then came related findings from Boston’s Children’s Hospital, where underage minors were being treated. No wonder an industry whose first clinic opened in 2007 now boasts over fifty across the country, valued, in 2021, at $1.9 billion, with annual growth of over 10 percent. Such sums are a persuasive palliative for physicians who abandon “first, do no harm.”

Third, the serpent’s lure in the Garden of Eden, “You will be like God,” continues to tempt. Physicians, and especially surgeons, who view themselves as all-knowing, often suffer from a personality flaw known as a god complex. How tantalizing to play God by undoing and re-forming what the Lord has “fearfully and wonderfully made."

Fourth, as the culture wars against God, what greater attack can it wage than to dispute that God created only “male and female” and “blessed them?" So the culture argues there are more than “male and female” and that some children are not “blessed” because He makes mistakes, putting a female soul, for example, in a male body. What God makes mistakes? What loving Father does that to His child? None worthy of worship, says the culture.

Fifth, as governments, their officials, and their schools decree our children are not entrusted to our care and safe keeping, but to the control of elites who know better, gender-affirming hospitals are emboldened to enrich and empower themselves by echoing that claim. In fact, the U.S. Department of Defense recently declared it a “human right” for seven-year-olds to take dangerous, life-altering hormone blockers.

The children’s hospitals that saved my life and the world that supports them are unrecognizable to the grandparents of today. Worse yet, like that cold, snowy, windy day seventy-two years ago, the path forward is obscured. We may never find our way to a safe and healthy place. 


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