How is it possible for two retired senior citizens to create a global charity that helps diagnose and treat sick children in 110 countries?
That question was posed to Frank Brady during the Q&A period after a recent speaking engagement. He responded: “The story starts in the 1940’s when as a young child, I was diagnosed with what was then a terminal disease: spinal meningitis. My young parents were told I only had a few weeks to live and recommended they be allowed to administer a new experimental drug. The new drug, which had never before been administered to a child, turned out to be penicillin. It was at this point that my mother decided that God had spared me because I was supposed to do something special with my life - which over the next 25 years she said to me at least a 1,000 times.
Fast forward to 1999. I had just been forced to retire because of my heart issues. My wife Peg and I were sitting at the kitchen table trying to figure out what was next for us, which we had been trying to do for months, when the words Something Special popped into my head. I said to Peg, “Suppose we try to help families that have a dying child and are in the same situation my parents were in when I was little?” She thought it was a great idea and so Medical Missions for Children was born.
The only money we had was our retirement savings and neither of us had a medical background. We only wanted to help one or two children each year. Little did we know that a mere 15 years later we would have helped over 80,000 kids.
We knew that with our limited funds we could not bring the child to the US to see a specialist and we couldn’t fly the specialist overseas to see the child – so the only option left was to arrange a virtual visit called “telemedicine”. The other problem was we had no expertise in medicine. We decided to ask Sister Jane Brady (no relation) who was President of St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center in Paterson, NJ to be our first trustee. Sister Jane originally said ”No” because the idea was too ‘out there’. However, persistence paid off and she eventually agreed - with one caveat: the charity had to be based at St. Joe’s. This turned out to be a blessing as we became integrated into the St. Joe’s family so our lack of medical experience was no longer a problem.
Next we had to demonstrate that long-distance medicine was viable. We needed a venue that had high visibility. I read in a magazine that the Ibero-American Summit was being held in about 8 weeks in Panama. Attending would be the Presidents and First Ladies of all Spanish speaking countries. I called everyone I could think of to make it happen. An old friend, Ambassador Alberto Salamanca of the Bolivian Mission to the UN called Ambassador Mary Morgan of the Panamanian Missions who in turn, called the President of Panama – and we made it onto the program! We were to demonstrate a live telemedicine session between St. Joe’s and the Hospital de Nino in Panama. There was only one problem – we had no equipment and only 5 weeks until the Summit.
Peg nervously wrote out a check for $85,000 from our retirement savings for the needed equipment and it was delivered to both hospitals. We were literally able to get it all up and running with only 5 minutes to spare before the President of Panama opened our first telemedicine session with the entire Ibero-American Summit watching.
We came within 5 minutes of crashing and burning. I have often thought over the years that when my mother would tell me “God wanted me to do something special” she never mentioned how he was going to help.
After that, and with all the publicity, the requests for help started to roll in and never stopped. Unbeknownst to me, one of our employees (actually our only employee) entered a magazine contest for the company with the best application of Polycom equipment would win a Polycom System. Several weeks later we received a call telling us we won! The problem was we had to go to a trade show in California for the presentation. Poor Peg had to write another check.
After the presentation, I started talking to Polycom’s President, who only had 15 minutes for me. Five hours later we were still talking and Medical Missions for Children became Polycom’s charity. After 15 years the relationship is still going strong.
Our partnerships with St. Joe’s and Polycom are what fueled our rapid growth.