Two series
focus on kids
in hospitals

Friday July 05, 2002

By Lindsey Tanner 

The Associated Press 


CHICAGO — Visiting children’s hospitals is enough to affect even the most stoic: terminally ill youngsters brightly smile from their beds, babies the size of fists cling to life-giving machines, parents who dread the worst discover the promise of modern medicine. 

PBS captures the heartbreak and hope of the nation’s 250 pediatric hospitals in a six-part series starting July 9 (check local listings) that focuses on Chicago’s Children’s Memorial Hospital. 

A top teaching hospital, Children’s features real-life dramas typical of hospitals devoted solely to youngsters. 

Viewers will see a wisecracking baldheaded 11-year-old girl with devastating brain tumors get teary-eyed because she can’t ride her bicycle anymore. They’ll visit the emergency room where a wide-eyed, curly-haired toddler is examined because of purplish spots and bruises on his back and legs. 

They may feel almost like intruders when the boy’s anguished mother breaks into tears as a grim-faced doctor tells her the diagnosis is probably leukemia. And they’ll see a witty 11-year-old boy with a failing transplanted liver tell his mother plaintively during hospital tests, “I want to get out of here.” 

The PBS program isn’t the only summer series dealing with the sometimes hard-to-stomach subject of real kids feeling real pain — ABC plans a four-part series on Wednesdays in August, filmed at Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock. 

Producers, who hope to ride the wave of enormously popular reality-based shows, say children’s hospitals are a natural setting for compelling television. They feature “all these sorts of tragedies and passions and triumphs and all of those big things you get in drama ... or theater or in literature,” said Anna Davies, a co-producer of the Chicago series. 

“You don’t want to make people feel utterly depressed, but you also don’t want to protect them from difficult issues. If you get the balance right — and I think we have — you come away feeling, ’Wow!”’ Davies said. “You want it to stay with people for as long as possible.”