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Five-year-old Heart Patient Travels to D.C. to Advocate for Better Health Care for Kids

This June, the Vidal-Velasquez family from Tampa will join dozens of other families from across the United States on Capitol Hill to speak out on behalf of kids with complex medical conditions and encourage Congress to support legislation that keeps children’s health care needs top of mind.

Five-year-old Jaden Vidal Velasquez was born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, and underwent open-heart surgery at St. Joseph's Children's Hospital when he was just 4 days old. Since then, he’s undergone two additional open-heart surgeries, several catheterizations, the insertion of a gastric feeding tube and months of physical rehabilitation.

His family is traveling to the nation’s capitol as part of the Children’s Hospital Association’s Family Advocacy Day. The June 23-25 trip includes one-on-one meetings with U.S. Representatives Gus Bilirakis, Kathy Castor, David Jolly, Tom Rooney, Dennis Ross, Daniel Webster and Senator Bill Nelson; a tour of Washington D.C.; and a celebratory dinner to honor the children and their families.

The Vidal-Velasquez family will share with lawmakers their own experiences with having a child with special health care needs, including the importance of having a medical home for children with complex and chronic conditions and their recent coverage through Florida KidCare (Children’s Health Insurance Program). Together, St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital and the family will ask Congress to support legislation that designates national pediatric networks that will ensure kids like Jaden receive life-saving care, regardless of where they live.

“The majority of our pediatric patients are covered by Medicaid and Florida KidCare, and a considerable number of these children have medically complex conditions that require specialized care,” said St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital President Kimberly Guy. “Advocating for appropriate care for patients like Jaden is a priority for St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital. Ensuring that kids with medically complex conditions have access to the care they need regardless of their family’s financial situation or where they live is a critical step to improving their health and long-term medical outcomes.”

St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital’s Chronic-Complex Clinic has been recognized nationally for its innovative work with medically complex children. Serving as a medical home for patients like Jaden, the specialized clinic provides consistent, accessible and coordinated primary care, resulting in healthier, happier and higher qualities of life for hundreds of children throughout Florida.

For more information on Family Advocacy Day, or to meet the Vidal-Velasquez family, please contact Amy Gall at (813) 870-4731.

St. Joseph's Children's Hospital of Tampa • 3001 W. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. • Tampa, FL 33607 • (813) 554-8500