Tuesday, July 23, 1996
Saving the children, 10 at a time

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Some people are just never satisfied.

Dr. Beatrice Lampkin saved hundreds - eventually thousands - of children who would have died of leukemia. She started simply, one cell at a time.

She is not finished.

The hematologist - oncologist, not to mention pediatrician, professor and thoroughly nice person, sits in a cramped and cluttered office at Children's Hospital Medical Center. Her white lab coat is appliqued with Bugs Bunny on one pocket. ''What's Up, Doc?'' it asks in bright letters.

Sweet face, dimples. White hair. Good smile. I'll bet the kids love her.

She loves them back.

No matter how consumed she became by the test tubes and petri dishes of research, you just know that she never forgot who would be on the receiving end of whatever she discovered. Monographs on ''megaloblastic anemia of infancy secondary to maternal pernicious anemia'' and ''maintenance therapy in acute childhood leukemia'' were always about one thing.

Saving the children.

Or, in her drawl, born in Alabama and softened in Virginia, the childrun. From the Medical College of Alabama, she interned at the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond, then residency at Children's Hospital here. A victim of polio when she was 7 years old, she did most of this on crutches.

No big deal. Her mother let her know that she could do anything. Anything.

A pioneer

A woman determined to be a medical doctor in the 1950s. Published. Respected. Revered. She climbed to the third level of the Great Wall of China and waved her crutches to the crowd that had gathered beneath her. And now she is determined to save children whose mothers are hooked on drugs or alcohol.

She is pushing something called Glad House for kids ages 6 through 10 whose mothers are in residential treatment. Dr. Lampkin is a woman who sees connections. Her stunning success with leukemia began with simply understanding how cells divide.

Dr. Lampkin says that when a woman gets help with her addiction, her kids are left hanging. It's not only bad for the kids to be left with whomever is available, but it's a missed opportunity. What if they got help at the same time? What if alcohol and drugs were treated as a chronic family illness?

The enemy she knows

Dr. Lampkin is shameless. She'll squeeze anybody she thinks can help these kids. It's life or death. A terrible disease. And that is an enemy she knows. And an enemy she can beat.

''Just like we do with cancer, we're going to do intensive treatment up front, then continue treatment with monitoring and strong evaluation.''

Glad House will be on the grounds of St. Aloysius Orphanage in Bond Hill. When it's finished, the residence will only hold about 10 kids at a time. While they're there, they'll be nearly smothered with counseling, schooling, and physical and psychological evaluation. The mother comes back into her child's life at Glad House, after she finishes her own rehab.

It starts with dinners, ''where they learn to eat and bond together.'' The staff meanwhile teaches the mother how to be a better parent. The Glad House staff follows the child home and all the way through high school.

It's not cheap.

But if you multiply the number of kids by the number of other people in the family, times the number of children they might have, times the number of people they won't rip off for a nickel bag, times the number of jail cells they won't occupy, it begins to seem like kind of a bargain.

Plus Dr. Lampkin is hoping that this Glad House will be a model for hundreds more all over the country.

Like most miracles, it begins with somebody who believes she can do anything. And is not afraid to start small.

Laura Pulfer's column appears in The Enquirer Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call 768-8393 or fax at 768-8340. She can be heard Monday mornings on WVXU radio (91.7 FM) and as a regular commentator on National Public Radio's Morning Edition.