It may be hard for people who have seen Doug Jones’ legal commentary on national television to imagine this esteemed Birmingham lawyer as a panicked six-year-old at Children’s Hospital.
After all, as a former U.S. attorney, Jones’ reputation for fearlessness was established decades ago, from his re-opening and successful prosecution of former Ku Klux Klansmen for the 1963 bombing of Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church, to his indictment of domestic terrorist Eric Robert Rudolph. But this Birmingham attorney still remembers crying so loudly behind hospital bed rails in 1960 that his heartbroken parents could hear his wails on the street below.
“In those days the hospital was anything but family friendly,” says Jones of the ward he occupied with 30 or 40 other children suffering from various ailments and injuries. “The real problem was the fact that visiting hours, even for parents and other family members, were limited to a few hours during the day.”
Jones’ mother tried to tell the staff that her son’s high blood pressure would come down if they allowed her to stay overnight. But doctors and nurses thought they knew best. Although Jones’ heart murmur was eventually diagnosed and treated by Birmingham Pediatric Cardiologist Lionel M. Bargeron, Jr., Jones and his now 81-year-old parents still remember their separation trauma.
That’s why the attorney who has devoted his life to fair treatment was so impressed by Children’s current family-centric facilities that he decided to write a letter to his long-time friend, Chief Executive Officer Mike Warren. His words may further inspire a staff caring for the next generation of children destined to positively impact the world.
“While we can marvel at the advances in medicine and technology, we should never overlook the healing powers of the love of family. So on behalf of the generation of kids and parents who will have the benefit of this new facility in the future, I say thank you. Your leadership and vision, with the help of the Russell family and the community at large, will be felt for generations to come, and in ways that can never be expressed.”