Meredith Shimek has been volunteering with Children’s Hospital for a year, playing with children and sharing her time on the inpatient units. As a senior in high school, Meredith is writing about her volunteer experience for class and was kind enough to share her story with us, as well!
“In the summer of 2009, I went to see my pediatrician for my 14-year physical. I come from a tall Minnesotan family, and with a brother towering over 6’5”, when I had stopped growing at 4’11”, it became apparent that something was a little off. My pediatrician began running blood tests, and a couple of weeks later, I was diagnosed with Turner Syndrome. A month later, after an Upper GI Endoscopy, I was also diagnosed with celiac disease. As a teenager, I didn’t really know what to think about this new information, but now I do know that if not for my many appointments at Children’s Hospital, I never would have become a volunteer, or become interested in medicine.
As a kid, I never had an interest in the medical field. I was squeamish about blood and notorious for fainting when I’d get a flu shot- in short, the hospital was a place that I dreaded going to and had no interest in. After being diagnosed with Turner Syndrome, I went to Children’s Hospital many times for echocardiograms or blood draws. I can’t remember a time that I wasn’t eager to leave, but I would see other kids, younger than me, being wheeled into a room connected to IVs, and I would notice the dedication and tact of the Children’s staff. Everyone worked together to help these young people, and that was something I wanted to be a part of. I became increasingly interested in the medical field and wanted to help foster the environment that makes Children’s such a welcoming hospital.
As I started my junior year of high school, I began volunteering in the Pediatric Epilepsy Unit at Children’s. During my first month of volunteering, I spent my shifts with a little girl. At first, she would talk about how she missed her dog, or how she was distracted by her IVs, but in the following weeks, she would actually have a good time with me. We’d spend our time making friendship bracelets or discussing People magazine articles. She left the hospital happy, healthy, and excited to tell her 4th grade class all about the games she played, the people she met, and the artwork & scrapbook that we’d put together.
After a couple months of volunteering, I was already eager to be trained in other areas of the hospital. The first day of summer vacation, I started my shifts on an inpatient unit. I ended up spending the entire morning with a little boy, having our own little “bedside party” blowing bubbles and party blowers to help his lungs. On a day when his parents couldn’t visit him, it was great knowing that he didn’t have to be lonely.
There are a couple of reasons why I have loved my time at Children’s. It is a place that has inspired me so much as I see these kids become physically healthy. It also means so much to be able to help them through their time at the hospital. Now I know that I am more open to changing my mind, and more eager to make a difference and dedicate myself to something that matters to me.”
Thanks, Meredith, for the time and energy that you’ve shared with the kids and families here at Children’s! We are so glad to have you here!