What would you do?
Here’s a story from a former volunteer at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan. We’d love to receive some responses of how you would react in this situation!
Over my decade of volunteering I've interacted with thousands of patients, but I’ll always remember my favorite, Penelope Washington *.
In the summer of 2005, I was prepping to have surgery at The University of Michigan. Since I had volunteered and/or worked at Motts for years I decided to volunteer as LONG as possible. During a couple special shifts I met a 3 year old patient named Penelope. There was an immediate connection. Each time I saw her she was with her mom and grandma. Originally I wasn't sure why she was in the hospital on the neurology floor, but I learned quickly. During one of our adventures in the playroom she collapsed and started having a grand mal seizure. I immediately stepped back in fear and watched her mom and grandma repeatedly call her name to get her attention. Externally her body was convulsing and internally I was shaking. I don’t quite remember exactly how it ended, but I do remember that we quickly returned to our game.
The next day Penelope and I were playing in the special rice box (used dyed rice instead of sand since it was easier to clean up). Out of nowhere she had another one of her seizures, but this time she fell into my arms. I immediately looked for help. Her mom and grandma stepped back and told me what to do. I repeatedly called her name and asked her to look at me. We made eye contact. Seemed like hours the tiny girl uncontrollably shook in my arms. Finally it stopped. Immediately she popped up and said “ALL DONE!” and pulled my hands to quickly get back to work; playing in the rice box followed by drawing beautiful pictures.
That situation put everything into perspective. Amazing how this young girl was able to quickly overcome her trials and focus on future opportunities. Amazing how she was strong enough to immediately smile after that terrifying experience rather than dwell on potential difficulties. Due to her I was able to overcome my own situation the following month; left selective amygdalohippocampectomy. Although that was over 8 years ago she still has an impact. What was most surprising is that she felt that SHE was the lucky one. Her mom, Bree*, stated that:
“I remember like it was yesterday, the afternoon you carried her to the play room. The Drs. had brought her up to toxic on another failed seizure med and she was so weak she couldn't walk. You came and got her and took her to sit with you and the other children. You were (are) her knight in shining armor. Sometimes, in the most frightening experience we find a gift from God. And you…are ours.”
In terms of impacting pediatric patients the statement must be true, ‘a little goes a long way’.
In fact, to this day I have a gift from her on my “inspirational wall”. Wall includes:
1. Laminated and framed Ann Arbor News article about a bowler who played her best game ever after having brain surgery.
2. A mounted Booker T Washington quote; ‘success is to be measured not so much by the position one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed.’
And of course, right between those monuments is a laminated and framed picture Penelope made for me. On this masterpiece her mother wrote the text ‘All Done’ and signed Penelope’s name. Penelope delicately added a creative brown design at the bottom and two stunning orange circles at the top. The artwork also has a picture of her in a delicate white and red dress, as well as a special honeycomb sticker.
Still to this day, I remember how she peeled off the sticker she got for being “good” and gave it to me as a gift. That sticker will remain framed for all time. I’m still friends with Bree on Facebook and continually get updates on how Penelope is doing and how the medicine is impacting her. Thanks to her strength and encouragement I was able to keep a smile on my face throughout my situation.
Cardz for Kidz! understands that there’s no way everyone can connect with patients first hand and/or have a lasting relationship, but we'll continue to try and post pictures of the children you're impacting. Also, we try to ensure that patients who don’t have a volunteer to come pick them up and take them to the playroom are still uplifted so we send your cards. And since the ‘gifts’ are delivered room to room, you can be sure that YOU are making a difference.
With these partnerships, a lot of patients’ and participants’ distress, discouragement and disappointment are ALL DONE!!
Check out the post ‘TooSmall?? No Such Thing’ for another first hand story from a volunteer. Please reach out if you have any special stories about connecting with a hospitalized and/or traumatized child.
To see more pictures and stories please check out our Facebook page, facebook.com/cardzforkidz or follow us on Twitter @cardzforkidz