Race for Every Child: Local Six-Year-Old Gives Back to the Hospital that Saved Her Life

Matt and Sarah Rodjom of Fairfax, VA were overjoyed when they found out they were expecting twin daughters in the spring of 2011.

But at their 20-week checkup, their joy turned to worry and fear.

One of their daughters, Marisa, had a cyst where half of her right lung should have been. The diagnosis was grim. Doctors told the Rodjoms that their baby may have major birth defects, or worse, she may not survive.

The Rodjoms immediately sought the expertise of the team at Children’s National Health System. The first-time parents had never realized the benefit of having a top-10 pediatric hospital in their backyard. But like countless families before, and after, Matt and Sarah quickly realized how reassuring and life-saving Children’s National would be for their growing family.

The team at Children’s National began monitoring twins Marisa and Emily weekly and worried that Marisa might not be breathing when she was born.

Luckily, at 36 weeks, Sarah delivered the girls without any complications.

Marisa would be monitored for 11 months as she grew strong enough to withstand the surgery to remove the cyst. After a successful surgery, she returned home healthy — just in time for her first birthday.

“We’ll always be grateful to Children’s National,” Matt says. “Doctors and nurses went above and beyond to care for Marisa and reassure us as parents. Even as we were dealing with the stress of the unknown, the environment that Children’s National has created made us feel like we were not in a hospital. Marisa got to ride in a wagon to her room, nurses delighted her with bubbles and she loved watching the fish in the massive fish tank. She was able to focus on just being a kid.”

Now a boisterous six-year-old, Marisa will be running in the Race for Every Child to give back to the hospital that saved her life. Siblings Emily and Zachary will join Marisa in the 100-yard Kids Dash, and Matt and Sarah will run the 5K through downtown D.C. Although Matt is legally blind, he is still able to pursue his passion of running. He has run 10 marathons and placed third in last year’s Race for Every Child.

“Our kids love seeing the superheroes and receiving their Kids Dash medal from Dr. Bear, Children’s National’s mascot,” Matt says.

Philanthropic events like the Race for Every Child help ensure that every child treated at Children’s National receives the same exceptional care, regardless of their family’s ability to pay. In 2015, Children’s National provided more than $63M in uncompensated care and $108M in community benefit.

Proceeds from the Race for Every Child also support Children’s National in continuing to develop innovative therapies, find lifesaving cures for childhood diseases and improve the overall state of pediatric health for years to come.

Please join the Rodjom family, the Washington Family team and thousands of others for this year’s Race for Every Child 5K and Kids Dash at Freedom Plaza in downtown Washington, D.C. on Oct. 21 from 8 a.m.–Noon.

Register, create a team or simply donate at raceforeverychild.org. Enter WFAMILY5 to receive $5 off your 5K registration. Registration closes on Oct. 12.

Erica Baca is the director of the Race for Every Child, one of the region’s largest events focused on children’s health. To date, the event has raised more than $4.3 million for Children’s National Health System. This year’s Race is Oct. 21. To learn more, register and donate visit raceforeverychild.org.

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