First Lady security restrictions upset some parents of St. Jude patients

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Many of the families who are getting medical help from St. Jude got a letter telling them children can only bring one family member with them for their appointments Wednesday, and no siblings.

Parents tell WREG while the First Lady’s visit is just one day, many of these kids are living day-to-day, and these new security rules are very upsetting.

“We met several celebrities but that’s not why I’m there,” said one patient’s mother.

Heather asked us not to use her last name. Her 4-year-old son came to St. Jude a few years ago with stage four cancer.

He’s now in remission, and she couldn’t be happier. But she’s one of several people chiming in on Facebook about the First Lady’s visit.

“I’d probably be like I need to cancel my appointments for today because I don’t know if I could be there with all that going on.”

Heather’s son is no longer at the hospital, but families who are got a letter from St. Jude.

It says only one parent or caregiver can come with the kids to appointments Wednesday. And they’re not allowed to take pictures or post anything about the visit to social media.

Heather said, “I wish she and the Secret Service people could have taken all of this into account. Because this is not a normal hospital.”

Spokespeople at St. Jude tell WREG they invited Mrs. Obama to come for a visit. September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and they say nothing brings awareness to something quite like a visit from the White House.

WREG heard about one case of a father flying in to join his wife for their son’s doctors appointment, only to find out he couldn’t go according to these new rules, which is one of the reasons this issue got stirred up in the first place.

St. Jude reps say they will make exceptions for special cases.


  • biz59

    These children live each day minute by minute most of them and this is a crock that only one sibling can go with them on the day that Michelle Obama is in the city. These kids need all the siblings and friends around them to support them that they normally have. What is the deal anyway, the Obama’s are on there way out within a year and there is NOTHING that she can say or do here at St. Jude. Her donation of a monetary fund would of been more WELCOME than a visit.
    How could St. Jude really even feel that they could or should ask the parents of children there to restrict their people that are normally with them day to day on their walk through all these treatments. Go home Michelle and let the children of St. Jude live on with their family and families that they need for the whole day with out interrupting the daily procedures of ill children fighting for their lives.

    • Pride in Memphis

      Your remark is one that could have been kept. The president wife was invited to St Jude by St. Jude’s administrators. She was brought there for awareness. None of the complaining parents are paying one dime for treatment and with the cost of insurance most couldn’t afford the care. I respect what the hospital has done and I also respect the rules of the Secret Service. Ms. Obama didn’t come there to heal anyone nor did her visit hinder any of the kids care. Sometime a person has to open up the why things happen the way they do and if they don’t like what is being done they has the right to refuse treatment for their child or children and take them some where else. So stop all the complaining.

      • Joan

        Your statement is callous and tacky. You own remarks “could have been kept” and truly should have been kept. For you to suggest that the priorities of the families should be shifted during such a critical time just because they are not paying for their care is sick. And to go a step further and say that they could pursue care elsewhere is asinine. I gather enough from your comment to know that you suffer from a lack of judgment and compassion, to such a degree that I have no hope of sparking any improvement in a single comment or quite possibly over many in your lifetime. It is not my intent to make a change in you with regard to that. However, I will point out the hypocrisy and sheer irony in your views.

        St. Jude gets a great deal of attention. Yes, it could always use more. But never should the comfort of a guest be treated with higher priority than the patients and families receiving services and support form the hospital. If this visit made any patients uncomfortable, then it did and they have every right to voice their feelings for future consideration. I am sure they appreciate the intentions of the administrators, but even the best intentions do not always work as hoped.

    • John T. Dwyer

      This is all a tempest in a teapot!
      The first lady comes to town and the cretins show up on social media. SHEESH!
      Well get a clue……there are bad men and women out there, who would love nothing more than to make a nuthouse political statement by hurting Mrs. Obama and anyone around her. There are goofs wandering around out there who would have no problem shooting up the hospital/ children/ doctors/ nurses, and never giving it a second thought.
      In fact, I was on the scene when a distraught man took some nurses and a doctor hostage years ago. He ended up getting his brains splattered all over a wall because he was going to kill these people. The risk of another incident is not worth the openness, or facility in access.

      Having worked with the Secret Service, I have seen them take exceptional precautions to protect the dignitaries they are assigned to protect, even to the point of keeping a recent mayor and city council people, away from the President when he was in town. They will not take a chance with a nutcase, or suspected one.
      However, you can be assured they have taken several months in advance to coordinate with local law enforcement and hospital staff to make sure things go as smoothly as possible for everyone. It is the times we live in. I can also assure you that not one of these agents has the mentality of wanting to bug or putting somebody out of their way.

      You have no idea (or would believe) how many positively dangerous, deranged, societal misfits we have walking among us. The Secret Service cannot round them all up every time a dignitary comes to town and lock ’em up. That’s gestapo. I don’t want that and neither do you.
      hey do have rules and protocols to follow. They do so but in the least intrusive way. Nothing happened bad yesterday and for the most part it seemed to be a great visit……..great job Secret Service and St. Jude!

  • Hopemarie

    If she had any integrity she would have put the welfare of the children before herself. This is just awful and shameful and I’m sure outside of Memphis, no one will ever know about it…. I’m disgusted.

    • Joan

      She probably did not consider it for a second. She was invited and accepted and I am sure with honorable intentions. Honestly, it isn’t her responsibility to know the details of the hospital operations. The people who are in that hospital every day and know what it takes to keep patients and their families comfortable are the ones who should know if her visit is feasible. But even they may make slight errors in judgment.

      • Truck

        Its all about skin tone with a lot of y’all. She haven’t bothered none of you. The media plays both side their ying & yang!

  • Tracy Smith

    HOPEMARI…. No children was put at risk. All patients scheduled today has been treated or will be treated after hours and many parents agreed. Stop all this nonsense.

    • Right is Color Blind

      Tracy Smith, thank you! Those who do not understand the inner workings of St Jude will find fault. More than likely, St Jude scheduled patient appointments to allow the patient and families to get a glimpse of her.

      • takethemalldown

        She could have done this differently. Kids get scared, I would hope you know that, and need all the family around them as possible. Sad they had to cater to the wants/needs of a healthy adult women.

  • Right is Color Blind

    As a former St. Jude employee, I feel that these restrictions are extreme yet understandable. St Jude takes excellent care of its patients and families. Their primary concern is and will always be to protect the children. Her presence at St Jude could have possibly brought more visitors than normal putting many of these children who have weakened immune systems at a higher risk of infection. Regardless of if you support our President and First Lady, today the children had the opportunity of a lifetime (for many a short lifetime) to meet or see her. These children have no prejudices like we as adults.
    Secondly, her presence could help with financial contributions. Many celebrities that visit give donations. Who’s to say she did not. Again, for St Jude protecting these brilliant and special children is always first and foremost even when it IS NOT a popular decision.

    • Joan

      I understand where you are coming from but the point remains that they must be protected all days so there must be a sufficient policy already in place to prevent excessive visitors. If protection of the children was the motivation for the rule change, whatever policy is deemed reasonable for all days, should apply for all days. I did have a problem with only one parent being allowed. Normal immediate family visitors seems reasonable.

    • takethemalldown

      Really stupid statement. These little kids are very sick and dying…..who do you think they would rather have by their side? Mom and Dad or some politician’s wife.

    • Hancock

      That’s because they actually did real good for people and had a soul. They actually cared for the people they helped, put others ahead of themselves, plus had respect for their roles. Obama’s only serve and care for Obama’s. Grow a clue.

    • Truck

      So correct! She didn’t not do this, they scheduled her appearance. Some just hate blacks of a certain status in life.

  • Verdell

    Please screen your patient parents because this Heather Lady needs to find a place to hide. When important people like The First Lady comes to town. I believe she is not being fair. (Please read between the lines).

  • redblur63

    As a former employee of St Jude who worked specifically with high level visitors to the hospital, I can qualify that the security requirements for Mrs. Obama’s visit were no different from those in place when Mrs. Laura Bush visited. And the requirements are set forth by the Secret Service, according to the level of protection needed, which is, in turn, determinted by the kind of information they have at present. The Obama family receives more threatening messages than any presidential family in history. It is a matter of good sense that the Secret Service are concerned about her safety and welfare in public places. And I saw many athletes and celebrities who came to St. Jude whose demands and requirements were just as, if not moreso, stringent. I understand completely the need for family support during inpatient and outpatient stays at the hospital, but Mrs. Obama was NOT the person who made the requirements. Laying the blame at her feet is mean-spirited and poor judgement. The security requirements would have been identical for Mrs. Bush, Mrs. Reagan, or any other First Lady. Thank you, Mrs. Obama, for lending your high profile status to the cause of research and treatment for catastrophic childhood illnesses. Memphis is fortunate to have St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital located here.

  • lion lion lion lying

    St. Jude has got plenty of money…. why do you think they built that second barley occupied tower? Cause they are only allowed to have a certain amount in the bank to qualify as a non-profit… bam….

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