Craig Lambrecht, Mission Impossible
A North Dakota National Guardsman for 24 years, Dr. Craig Lambrecht -- a pediatric ER surgeon -- is no stranger to answering the call of duty. But during a 2006 deployment to Iraq, the father of five found himself battling a new health crisis.
The U.S. Army-operated Smith Gate Clinic -- the only pediatric burn unit for Iraq -- was treating up to 700 children per month and rapidly running out of supplies. So Lambrecht, 47, called his home hospital, MedCenter One in Bismarck, asking for support and money. Within weeks, the call had gone out nationwide; within a year he and his team had raised $100,000 in cash and more than $500,000 in supplies.
Now Lambrecht is going a step further by bringing Iraqi children who need care beyond the scope of Iraqi hospitals here to America, all expenses paid. So far, he's brought seven children (and their parents) to this country for treatment. "Treating these kids doesn't have any political barriers," Lambrecht says. "There's a universal understanding that, as a parent, you'll do whatever it takes."
Heidi Adams, Youth Movement
Cancer's no picnic at any age, but it can inflict a fresh hell of hardships on the young. Heidi Adams had to wait eight excruciating months to learn she had Ewing's sarcoma because doctors misdiagnosed her symptoms -- in part, she believes, because her doctors didn't take her recitation of her symptoms seriously. "The information I was giving was being filtered through the fact that I was 26 years old -- and was discounted," says Adams, now 41. "That's one of my big beefs."
That beef ended up fueling a passion for helping other young people with cancer, by founding PlanetCancer.org, which provides an online oasis of message boards, information, and resources to more than 5000 cancer survivors, ages 15 to 40. "Although we're about 6% of all cancer patients, we just get lost," she says.
Now Adams is taking Planet Cancer offline by hosting kayaking retreats for survivors, as well as serving as advocacy co-chair for LIVESTRONG Young Adult Alliance, which, as part of the Lance Armstrong Foundation, is working to increase survival rates among cancer patients. Her first book, Welcome to Planet Cancer, debuts in 2009.
Carol Levine, Time to Care
Carol Levine's life changed forever in 1990, when her husband, Howard, lost control of their car on an icy road. While she was unhurt, he suffered a severe brain injury that left him disabled and requiring 24-hour care -- care that suddenly, inexplicably, and bewilderingly became Levine's sole responsibility. "I was basically told, ‘He's yours now.' I wondered, Why did that feel wrong, and what could be done about it?"
To help answer that question -- for herself and millions of other Americans who serve as caretakers -- Levine, 74, a New Yorker who already had won a 1993 MacArthur Foundation Fellowship for her work on AIDS policy and ethics, joined the United Hospital Fund in 1996 to direct the Families and Health Care Project.
In 2006, she introduced an ethics framework and policy agenda for family caregivers for New York state. Her latest campaign is Next Step in Care: Family Caregivers and Health Care Professionals Working Together. The soon-to-be-launched website, helps families transition between hospitals, rehabilitation units, and nursing homes. "I have a vision that when people become family caregivers that there is a coordinated system to guide them," says Levine, whose work has attracted national attention.
Kyle and Pattie Petty, Driving Force
Adam Petty had two dreams: to be a NASCAR champion like his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather before him, and to build a camp for children with serious illnesses near his North Carolina home. The 19-year-old Busch Series driver was poised to fulfill both when he crashed into a wall during practice on May 20, 2000. He died instantly.
Devastated, his parents, Kyle and Pattie Petty, decided to move forward with the camp in their son's memory. With the overwhelming support of the NASCAR community, the Pettys raised about $30 million and in 2004 opened Victory Junction Gang Camp. It hosts week-long, disease-specific sessions for kids ages 7 to 15 during the summer and family weekends year-round. Notes Kyle, "We lost one child, but, to date, we've gained over 6,000."
The plan now is for Victory Junction to become a franchise. The camp has announced plans to open a facility in Kansas City, Kan., and the Pettys hope to break ground next spring. Pattie Petty says she takes solace in knowing her son's dreams are now a reality. "Adam would be humbled that everybody has done this in his honor."