In the Spring of 1981, I was 15 years-old. My first memory of walking into the Emory Pediatric Clinic (which was a glorified trailer) was seeing a boy around my age with a bald head and wondering, “Is that going to be me?”
After what seemed like hours of testing and several discussions with a doctor I could not understand, the nurse entered the room holding a huge syringe full of red medicine. Then I met Dr. Ragab. His presence was immediately calming. That was my first impression of Dr. Ragab – confident reassurance.
Over the next two years, my memories are more of the clinic and the terrific staff that worked in pediatric hematology. Dr. Ragab and his associates created a fun environment in the clinic: people laughed and shared together. It seems impossible, but before a lumbar aspiration or a bone marrow testing procedure, there was laughter. An atmosphere of happiness and hope was ever-present. From Miss Sidney, the “play lady”, who kept the young kids busy, to the nurses who were always interested in my social life, the place where we received our medicine was surprisingly not horrible. Such an environment does not occur by accident; it is created by a caring leader. That leader was Dr. Ragab.
Dr. Ragab was more than a physician who treated my cancer – he took an interest in me. He became a person I trusted for guidance after my treatment was completed. We played racquetball, tennis and shared meals at the local pizzeria. To this day, I do not understand how he was victorious on the courts – but at least he bought my dinner afterwards!
Seven years after my treatment, a nodule appeared on my thyroid. Not knowing what to do, I called Dr. Ragab’s office. He stopped what he was doing and took my call. I cried. He consoled me and directed my case to the best thoracic surgeon at Emory. He even followed up during my hospitalization and treatment. I was not his patient, but Dr. Ragab still provided that same confident reassurance.
Oddly enough, I remember the years at the Emory Clinic fondly. I was one of the lucky survivors. My life has been enriched by experiences and friendships related to the Emory Clinic, CURE, and Camp Sunshine. Dr. Ragab was an excellent physician, childhood cancer advocate, and the founder of CURE Childhood Cancer. He was my doctor, mentor, and friend. He remains one of the most influential people in my life. His unmistakable laugh, guidance, and positive outlook will always be with me.
In three short years, the Believe Ball has raised more than $2.7 million to further CURE Childhood Cancer’s mission to find cures for cancers which affect children and to provide critical support to patients and their families. Every year, we honor someone who has made a significant impact on our mission and the children we serve. This year, we are proud to honor CURE’s founder, Dr. Abdel Ragab, for his lifelong dedication to finding a cure for childhood cancer.
In 1975 when Dr. Ragab arrived in Atlanta, he immediately realized an urgent need for a special microscope to distinguish between types of leukemia in order to put patients on the correct protocol. He organized a group of his patients’ parents to begin raising money and CURE was formed. What started as a research lab in a temporary trailer has grown into a top ten pediatric cancer research center. Dr. Ragab’s dedication and vision for children battling cancer was the very foundation upon which this great institution has been built.
Please consider being a part of a special tribute to Dr. Ragab by making a donation in his honor. We will surprise Dr. Ragab with the tribute gift total on May 13, 2017 at the 4th annual Believe Ball.