By Veronica Stoltz
If you‘ve ever stood by your child’s bedside hoping and praying that he or she will recover, you may have made a few bargains with “The Universe.” Mine included a vow to pay close attention to the kindness extended to our family during my daughter’s lengthy hospitalization and a pledge to find ways to personally give back.
My daughter, Katie, was born 15 weeks prematurely, weighing just 1 pound. She was incredibly fragile and her condition was precarious. She was ventilator dependent and developed a blood stream infection. At one point, a doctor warned us, her condition “could quickly become incompatible with life.”
Gratefully, Katie was no more ready to leave this life, than we were ready to part with her. She fought hard and overcame a host of complications. These included bronchopulmonary dysplasia, pulmonary hypertension and chronic lung disease. She also required laser eye surgery for severe retinopathy of prematurity. She needed 21 blood transfusions and was given paralytics with sedation to prevent her from using her precious energy for anything other than sustaining life.
But thanks to the attentive and expert care she received at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, she became stronger each and every day of her 99-day hospitalization. And when she weighed just a whiff over 5 pounds, she was able to come home to our grateful family on Easter Sunday in 2009.
Now, four-and-a-half years later, Katie is a perfectly healthy little girl. She loves all things pink, “Hello Kitty,” and sparkly—and finding all three at once is nirvana! She loves to run, do somersaults, and work on her cartwheel techniques on the sidelines of her big brothers’ football games.
This fall, she will start kindergarten. She will learn that the letter “X” is for X-ray, and be able to show her class one of her own. She will have an atypical baby picture to put on her “All about Me” poster, and she may bring some interesting hospital stuff for show-and-tell. But she will speak of all of these things in the past tense. Because Children’s helped her conquer challenges and realize her potential. So now she can focus on more important things….like glitter and finger paint.
During the time when I truly didn’t know if my daughter was going to live or die, I felt like a live electrical wire which had been stripped of all of its insulation. I was ultra-sensitive to everything around me. I was easily confused, worried, and overwhelmed. But I was also easily touched, amazed, and deeply moved.
Put very simply, I was extremely vulnerable. Most patients and their families are.
That’s why little things make such a big difference.
We are so grateful that our child and our family were not just “treated” at Children’s but “lovingly cared for.” There’s a big difference.
That’s why we’ve found ways to personally give back, and it has been one of the greatest experiences of our lives. It has strengthened and unified our family tremendously.
Giving back has helped us feel like we didn’t just go through a difficult medical experience, but that we allowed that experience to pass through us; transforming who we are and the value we now place on the things that matter most: love, family, life, and health.
Hardship is a great clarifier. So is service.
Compassion is contagious. It is the only thing Children’s infection control efforts can’t touch. Once you have felt its impact, you are smitten. You know that the smile you helped to bring to a child’s face is part of what is helping him or her to feel empowered to heal, and you want to be part of that anyway you can.
I give to Children’s partially because of my immense gratitude for Katie’s presence in our family, and partially because I know first-hand that “kindness” is its own kind of special medicine.
Katie is just one of the many fighters that Children’s is proud to care for each year, and we couldn’t do it without your support. Your donation helps us provide Minnesota’s kids with some of the best medical care in the world. From surgeries big and small, to cancer care, to innovative pain management techniques, nobody treats kids like we do. Thank you for your support today, and helping kids just like Katie.