We live close to Riley Children’s hospital, one of the best children’s hospitals in the country (don’t just take my word for it, check it out). I tell people all the time that Riley is a cool place, but at the same time, it’s a tough place. It’s cool because of all the people that care so genuinely for the kids there. There are so many great things for the kids who are patients there. There is a kind of kinship and camaraderie amongst Riley patients (and Riley parents, for that matter). They say, “Once a Riley kid, always a Riley kid.” And it’s totally true. It’s tough to be there, though, because you always see so many really sick kids. I mean, of course you do, it’s a children’s hospital, after all. But it’s a completely different thing to know there is a children’s hospital than it is to walk through the halls and see the kids with surgical masks and no hair, the toddlers with feeding tubes, and the exhausted parents who are picking up a much-needed cup of coffee before going back to their son or daughter’s hospital bed.
Here’s the thing, though. It’s so easy to get caught up in your own situation. And let’s be real, a lot of people have legitimate reasons to be focused on their own situations, especially these kids that will never have a “normal” life, or these parents who have to constantly battle things that other parents would never even consider (eg. insurance, work schedules, support from their kids’ schools, etc). But I have seen some of the coolest and most selfless things coming out of these kids.
When we were in the hospital with Reese the first time, when he first got his diagnosis of EOE, I was taking a walk, on my way to get the aforementioned coffee. As I walked down the hall, I happened to glance into another patient’s room. I saw a teenage girl, probably about 15, talking to another patient, a little girl who was probably 4 or 5. Both of them had feeding tubes. The older girl was talking to the little girl about her new feeding tube, saying, “Look, I have one just like you do!” She was talking to this scared little girl to help her feel better about her new normal. This was two years ago – that teenage girl had no idea I overheard her, so I know she has no idea the impact she had on me, someone who just happened to be walking by.
Reese can’t have a lot of things because of his food allergies and restrictions. Fortunately for us, he is just convinced he doesn’t like those things he can’t have. However, he loves cookies. I can make cookies that are safe for him, so he knows how great chocolate chip cookies can be. This summer, he and his sisters decided they wanted to make cookies to take to our local fire station to say thank you to the firefighters for protecting our community. He (along with his sisters) helped me make and a couple dozen cookies, then they put on their tie-dyed shirts and we went to deliver the cookies to some very grateful firemen. Don’t let the picture fool you, they were all actually pretty psyched to get to check out the fire truck – Emily just didn’t want to show it!
A friend of mine from school has a daughter named Emme. Emme has had a whole host of health problems from the moment she was born. She was born premature, had always been tube fed, and for the last few years has been dependent on a feeding pump in a backpack that she wears all the time. At 10 months old, she was diagnosed with a metabolic disease that affects her muscles, digestive system, and her lungs. At 18 months, she was diagnosed with chronic pancreatitis. When she was four, she had a major surgery in which 1she had her pancreas and spleen completely removed, meaning she now has insulin-dependent Type 1 diabetes. She also no longer has a gallbladder. Because of this, she cannot break down the fats in the formula that she depends on for her nutrition. At this point, many people would just throw up their hands and say, “Jesus, just take me now.” But let me tell you what Emme did. She had at least 65 cans of Elecare, Jr that she could no longer use. So she had her mom called her doctor to see if there was anyone in need. They were able to donate their formula to a family that was currently at Riley Hospital and preparing to head home. The formula is usually about $54 per can (no, that’s not a typo). Emme personally delivered a wagon full of formula to a family that was starting their journey of finding a new normal, saving them close to $3000 dollars in the process. Not only that, the generosity of this sweet little girl and her family showed another family that they are not alone as they start their journey.
There are stories like this every day and from all over. These kids have every reason to be down in the dumps, to be caught up in their own lives. But they instead are choosing to find joy and to give back. Anyone can give back, anyone can be a blessing to someone else. Those of us that are dealing with food allergies rare/chronic illnesses can get frustrated with what we can’t have or can’t do, but we can do something. And sometimes we can be just what someone else needs.
Don’t miss your chance to be someone’s miracle.