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Reagan’s Appeal On Girl’s Behalf Prompts Calls Of Concern

January 25, 1988

PITTSBURGH (AP) _ An appeal by President Reagan on behalf of Tabatha Foster, a toddler recovering from a rare five-organ transplant, prompted more than 100 phone calls of concern from around the country, Children’s Hospital said Sunday.

Most of the callers wanted the address of the Tabatha Foster Fund, said hospital spokeswoman Sue Carillo. She said the number of inquiries was considerably above normal for a weekend.

″It’s clearly going to help Tabatha specifically, but I think it’s going to help the whole transplant community generally,″ attorney Joseph K. Williams said of Reagan’s plea for help. Williams oversees the fund.

During his weekly radio address to the nation, broadcast Saturday from Camp David, Md., Reagan asked Americans to pray for Tabatha, who is in serious condition.

The 3 1/2 -year-old Madisonville, Ky., girl received a new liver, pancreas, small intestine and parts of a stomach and colon during an operation that ended Nov. 1.

Tabatha was born with short gut syndrome, which would have been fatal without surgery. She had never eaten solid food until December.

″It will take time and money, as much as $1 million, to return Tabatha to full health,″ Reagan said. ″Her parents have exhausted their medical insurance, so a Tabatha Foster fund has been set up in Pittsburgh to help them.″

The appeal surprised Tabatha’s family. ″All I can say is that I’m very pleased and grateful,″ her mother, Sandra Foster, said Saturday.

The little girl has been improving slowly, the hospital said. Her condition was upgraded from critical to serious condition in December.

About $115,000 has been raised so far, said Williams. The family has received a hospital bill for $325,000, but many items were omitted from it, he said. He would not discuss how much money the family owed.

Another transplant patient, Ronnie DeSillers gained national attention when Reagan donated $1,000 for his care after $4,000 raised by classmates at his Fort Lauderdale, Fla., school was stolen. Ronnie died April 29, 1987, while waiting for his fourth liver transplant.

Since then, questions about Maria DeSillers’ handling of some of the $662,000 donated for her 7-year-old son’s care have cast a shadow over transplant fund-raising, Williams said.

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