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By JOHN FRIEDLEIN
HARDIN COUNTY — While dropping cash into a firefighter’s boot — knowing the money will go to a good cause — may be a reward in itself, the real payoff sits in a room bordered by a teddy bear pattern and appointed with rocking chairs.
WHAS Crusade for Children money that flows back into the county helps Hardin Memorial Hospital in Elizabethtown buy high-tech devices, including enclosed cribs for the room where babies fight to live. The 55th annual regional drive — which the poor economy may hurt this year — will start locally next week.
Most Crusade money dedicated to HMH goes to the BirthPlace unit. Some equipment bought with these funds helps reduce labor after patients go through labor. For instance, new enclosed cribs — called isolettes — free up nurses’ hands so they can take care of babies. The devices also alert staff to problems such as a baby’s falling blood-oxygen level.
Across the hall sits a machine that radiates a purplish light, which helps a child’s body get rid of toxins. Six of these machines, which $17,000 in 2005 Crusade funds helped buy, are “by far superior” to the one the hospital previously used, unit manager Pat Burroughs said.
Part of the appeal of these grants is that they help HMH buy expensive devices that only a few patients will need. Plus, having this equipment will keep local kids from having to travel out of town for therapy, HMH spokeswoman Michelle Murphy said.
The hospital’s rehab department this year received “whole range of things,” from a frame to support kids on a treadmill to a swing to calm autistic patients before therapy, said Dan Martin, director of rehabilitation services.
Other Crusade-funded devices include a chair that positions kids for barium X-rays and a biofeedback computer program that adds entertainment to speech therapy sessions.
The hospital this year has requested four defibrillators for its sports medicine team, which attends school events. Also requested are two viewers that show a child’s veins — thus reducing the number of needle sticks.
Besides buying hospital equipment, Crusade money has helped other local agencies. For instance, last year, the Hardin County Board of Education received $35,000.
Area fire departments last year raised more than $200,000 — an increase over the previous year.
Mike Hulsey, Elizabethtown fire chief and county Crusade coordinator, said in an interview last year he was surprised more funds were raised, considering higher gas prices.
This year, however, gasoline is much more expensive and charities face more competition for donors’ generosity.
“I’m very concerned about it,” Hulsey said Monday.
He expects about a 10 percent drop in Crusade collections this year.
His firefighters will begin Thursday-through-Saturday collections May 22. Other local departments will participate as well.
The main Crusade event in Louisville is June 7 and 8.
John Friedlein can be
reached at 505-1746.