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In 1970, no child at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital had yet survived Wilms tumor. Doctors told Mark Dickey’s parents that they would do everything they could.
“I was two-and-a-half years old, had my left kidney removed and was one of three kids with Wilms tumor at St. Jude,” Dickey recalls. As the hospital’s first Wilms tumor survivor, Dickey was closely followed by doctors and researchers for many years.
In college, he worked for several years at the Volunteer Service Center and helped with bike-a-thons. Later, a full-time position opened in the hospital’s Information Technology Services department.
“I wrote a cover letter in which I noted that I was a former patient,” Dickey recalls. “When I received a call about scheduling an interview, the person told me she was impressed with my résumé and then said, ‘Let me tell you a little about St. Jude.’ I listened quietly and then asked if she had seen my cover letter, which she had not. I told her I knew almost as much about St. Jude as she did because I was a former patient.”
At St. Jude, Dickey helps employees use wireless communication devices and is on a team that is implementing a new way to scan patient information into the hospital’s electronic medical records.
One of his favorite St. Jude memories is of the late Charles Pratt, MD. “Dr. Pratt never forgot me,” he says. “When I first started working at St. Jude, he remembered who I was right away—even where I had had my tumor.”
Dickey sometimes shares his experiences with donors and current St. Jude patients. “When I help with tours for visitors and donors, I say, ‘I’m working off an old doctor bill.’ That always gets a laugh,” he chuckles.
Married with one child, Dickey says he can relate to an entirely different group at the hospital. “Now, as a parent myself, I really feel what my parents’ life must have been like when I was a patient,” he says. “You can look at the numbers and statistics, but every person—every family—is different. Choose to fight and choose to survive.”
Dickey takes his battle cry to the halls of St. Jude whenever he can. “I have a good life because of St. Jude,” he says, with a smile. “That’s why I work here.”