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The story of Lisa Pugh is one of courage and hope. It all began in the early 1970s when the 13-year-old learned that she had acute myeloid leukemia.
"The doctor recommended that we take Lisa to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital as soon as possible," her mother recalls. "From the very beginning, we were surrounded by love and respect. I can't describe how much that relieved some of our fears."
For four years, Lisa struggled with her illness, keeping a diary that eloquently recorded her thoughts and feelings. These and her mother's comments were later incorporated into a book titled "Lisa's Story."
Lisa eventually fell into a relapse, with little hope of recovery. She was given one more option—a bone marrow transplant. Because St. Jude was not yet equipped to perform this procedure, Lisa was sent to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, where she became one of the first bone marrow transplant recipients. Unfortunately, Lisa experienced complications and died July 21, 1975.
Gene and Virginia Pugh occasionally visit St. Jude, where they marvel at the changes in the hospital and its research facilities. "On our return visits, we still feel like there is love all around, and it can literally be felt when we walk in the doors," says Virginia. "We have shed a lot of tears there, but we have also experienced a lot of hugs and happiness."
Lisa's family wanted to help other patients and their families. "We are not wealthy people, but we wanted to do as much as possible for St. Jude. We can never in any way repay what the hospital has done for us and what it means to us," Virginia says.
The family found several ways to help. Virginia named St. Jude as the beneficiary of her life insurance policy. "We pay the annual premiums, and the dividends accumulate, so it has increased almost three times since we bought it," she says. "It is an excellent way to give more than we could otherwise." They and other family members have also named St. Jude in their wills. Through these avenues, plus regular contributions, the family set up an endowment fund in Lisa's memory.
Gene and Virginia continue to be involved in hospital fund-raising projects. Through public speaking engagements, they also share the story of Lisa and the impact St. Jude made on their lives.
"Each of us is different because of Lisa's life and death," writes Virginia in 'Lisa's Story.' "Lisa taught us to accept life as it comes, with adversity and happiness, and to live each day to the fullest. Life is fragile; each day is precious; Lisa left a little of herself in the hearts of each of us."
To learn about ways to give, call ALSAC Gift Planning at (901) 578-2425 or toll free at (800) 830-8119, ext. 2425.