Scharnese Cook, an 11-year-old heart transplant patient, led a delegation to Washington, D.C. Cook, along with a team from Norton Children’s Hospital, met with lawmakers to make sure they keep sick kids in mind as they work on health care legislation. Cook shared this about her trip:
I had never been to D.C. before, so I was both excited and nervous. Once we got settled in our hotel, we took a sight-seeing tour. I got to see the White House and the Washington Monument, but my favorite was the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. I was so excited to have my picture taken next to Dr. King’s statue and walk around to read all his famous quotes.
The next day was extra special. Not only was it my birthday, it also was the two-year anniversary of when I left Norton Children’s Hospital after my heart transplant. What a treat to spend it in Washington! We started the day at the National Air and Space Museum and then the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Our next stop was to the meet with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. I met him outside his office in the Capitol and gave him a bow tie from Norton Children’s Hospital Bourbon & Bowties event.
A champion at heart
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Following the meeting, we went back to the hotel to meet up with other kids and families from other states, who were meeting with their senators and representatives. I made new friends and the whole group even sang “Happy Birthday” to me. It was great meeting other kids who’ve gone through and overcome the same struggles I have.
Around the Capitol
Our last day in D.C. was the most exciting. It started with a meeting with Kentucky Congressman John Yarmuth. My mom and I shared our story with him and talked about the importance of Medicaid for families in need. He was very interested in my experiences at Norton Children’s Hospital and seemed to really understand kids going through challenging times.
The next visit was with Indiana Congressman Trey Hollingsworth. He was so nice. During our meeting, he got called to vote on some legislation. He invited us to the House floor with him — something most people never experience. Not only that, but he also let me cast his ballot for him! It was like I was a congresswoman myself!
Outside the House floor, we met other influential congressmen. We talked with Representative John Lewis (a prominent civil rights leader from Georgia). We then made our way to the Speaker’s Balcony, which is said to be the best view in Washington. While getting our picture taken, House Speaker Paul Ryan showed up. I got a picture with him, too.
After a very busy few hours in the Capitol, I was exhausted. I did a Skype interview with a TV station back home and then it was time to head to the airport.
A wonderful trip
Looking back, I can say it was an eye-opening journey. I experienced things that few adults get to, much less a kid my age. I’m so honored to share my unique experiences with our country’s leaders and be a voice for kids. As Congress works on its legislative agendas, I want to make sure they always keep sick kids in mind. I believe my story and journey will help accomplish that goal.
I also want to thank Norton Children’s Hospital for a wonderful trip. It’s an experience I will always remember.