Meeghan Rossi is only 13 years old, but she already understands the fragility of life.
In June of 2008 she watched as her younger brother was rushed to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia with severe chest pain.
She now credits the hospital with saving her brother's life and wants to give back to the doctors, nurses and staff who worked so hard to heal her brother. She's asking for area residents and business owners to contribute to her cause and donate funds to the hospital.
Michael Rossi was 9 years old when he began complaining of chest pain. He went first to Palmerton Hospital before being flown by helicopter to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Doctors soon realized that his heart was being attacked by a common cold virus, causing severe damage.
"A cold virus attacked his heart," explained Meeghan. "I was scared, hoping that he would be OK. I sat by him every day."
Michael has severe asthma and has gone through health scares before, but never like this. He would spend 10 days in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU) and an additional two days in the Cardiac Care Unit. He also underwent a heart biopsy. Through the entire ordeal his family stayed at a nearby Ronald McDonald House.
He was ultimately diagnosed with myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart muscle. Doctors explained that Michael's heart muscle was releasing enzymes and protein into his blood, a sign of heart damage. His heart's enzyme level was compared to that of a 50-year-old man having a heart attack.
"They saved Michael's life," she said quietly. "He was really, really ill."
Thanks to the doctors at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Michael is now a healthy 11-year-old living at home in Albrightsville with his sister and parents, Michael and Julie.
At the hospital, Meeghan spent most of her time in the cardiovascular unit, but also went to the computer room and play room with Michael. There, she met lots of new children with serious health problems.
"I saw so many sick children while we were there. There were a lot of children, and a lot of babies," she said. Meeghan also made friends with one girl going through chemotherapy and radiation. This girl had been too shy to speak with the other kids, but came out of her shell for the ever-upbeat Meeghan.
As a family member, she was touched by the care provided by the hospital's staff – and struck by the number of families who rely on the hospital's advanced care.
"I could tell that they cared. They treated us all so nicely," she said.
Back home, Meeghan quickly decided to start fundraising for the hospital. She contacted the foundation's fundraising office and began asking friends and neighbors for donations.
She also came up with a promise to raise funds – donate to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and she will shave her head on March 3.
"I thought of all the patients there, and how they don't have hair because of chemotherapy and radiation," she explained. "I'm so grateful to the hospital that I want to do this."
Many of her friends were surprised by her actions but are now very supportive. Meeghan will be traveling with her Girl Scout Troop 4229 to the hospital and Ronald McDonald House in March to provide meals and raise the spirits of sick children and their families. She's timed her fundraising efforts with the visit, so that her hair will be gone while she's visiting the sick children.
"This is really important to me and I want to shave my head, to show how passionate I am about this cause," said Meeghan. "I'm looking forward to it.
"My hair's pretty short. It should grow back quickly," she added jokingly.
Her parents are also grateful, for both their son's health and for Meeghan's passion and enthusiasm.
"I think Meeghan is very brave. We're incredibility proud of her for doing this," said Julie Rossi. "We are so grateful that they've saved Michael's life."
Meeghan is encouraging area residents and businesses to donate to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia by contacting her at firstname.lastname@example.org or (570) 722-8177. For more information on the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia or to make an individual donation directly to the hospital, visit www.giftofchildhood.com.