A BRIGHTER FUTURE THIS HOLIDAY SEASON -- STORIES OF SURVIVAL,
HOPE AND CELEBRATION, ON "20/20," FRIDAY, DECEMBER 23 ON ABC
"20/20" honors the holiday season by reporting on stories that celebrate families, best friends and the kindness of strangers - including a renowned neurosurgeon whose pioneering idea helped save the lives of both a boy and a dog. "20/20" airs FRIDAY, DECEMBER 23 (10:00-11:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network.
Pediatric neurosurgeon Fred Epstein of Beth Israel Medical Center in New York cared for children, not dogs - but just before Christmas 1997, as a favor to a friend, he looked at the x-rays of an eight year old Pug named Tucket who was having trouble walking. After Dr. Epstein spotted a problem, he came up with an extraordinary offer: If Tucket's owners, the McCauslands, would cover the cost of surgery for the next child who needed it but couldn't afford it, Dr. Epstein would operate on Tucket. And so came a deal that saved the life of then five-year-old Jerry Martin - whose treatment of a spinal tumor was paid for by the McCauslands. Over the years Bob Brown has checked in on all those involved, and this holiday season finds Jerry, now a teenager, playing in the snow and looking forward to Christmas. Brown also updates the condition of Dr. Epstein, who himself had a severe brain injury following a bicycle accident.
And: Siblings Jesse, Jordan, Joseph, Toby, Robbie and Susannah have somehow managed to stick together despite a childhood of cruelty at the hands of abusive foster parents. Three years ago the siblings spoke to ABC News Chief Investigative correspondent Brian Ross about their harrowing story of survival through alleged neglect, abuse and inhumane living conditions while living with foster parent Jacqueline Lynch. As "20/20" reports, the siblings have since been adopted - and are on their way to a happier life.
Also: What is the music of the American Christmas? For some, it might be a church choir, others might seek newest holiday CDs or savor the classics like Bing Crosby's "White Christmas." But as Chris Connelly reports, music so many happily associate with Christmas is neither classic or contemporary pop, it's a 40-year-old jazz album - the soundtrack from the 1965 animated TV special, "A Charlie Brown Christmas," featuring jazz composer and pianist Vince Guaraldi's "Linus and Lucy" tune. In fact it was the second-most-downloaded album from Apple's iTunes website last week.
Plus: Don Dahler reports on the dramatic story of Amy Rezos Smith, a woman who cheated death three times at the hands of her estranged husband, first by savagely beating her and, when that failed, shooting her in the head twice, and then trying to hire a hit man from prison to finish the job. Miraculously Amy survived and is now leading a crusade as a domestic violence victim's rights advocate. "I feel like I'm still here for a reason, to help other people out so they don't have to go through what I went through. I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy." Last May, after the "20/20" story aired, the Governor of Ohio signed Amy's Law requiring judges to follow a strict set of guidelines before setting bond for violent abusers like Amy's ex-husband, Chris.
Additionally: What happened to the thousands of pets abandoned after this year's hurricanes who are now orphans? As John Stossel reports, they can be found at animal shelters all across America, looking for homes.
Finally: In September 2004 the world witnessed a devastating massacre at a school in Beslan, Russia, when hundreds of innocent victims, mostly children, were killed by terrorists. "20/20" anchor Elizabeth Vargas first traveled to the shattered town the following month for a first-hand report. Now, a year later, "20/20" revisits the town that was changed forever for an update on how survivors and the victims' families are coping and moving forward, including the boy Russian pediatricians called the "Miracle Child of Beslan."
"20/20" is anchored by Elizabeth Vargas and John Stossel. David Sloan is the executive producer.