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Giving Stories, Mighty Blog

For a boy with a mysterious bug bite, child life specialists made all the difference

Johnny Polovitz was just a few days shy of his fifth birthday when he noticed a bug bite on his foot.

It was August, and he’d been spending most days playing outside in the woods by his house. At first glance, it didn’t look unusual — probably just a mosquito bite, thought mom Sarah.

But over the next 24 hours, it got worse. As the bite got bigger — changing color and shape — Sarah started documenting the bite with her camera. With each photo, she could see the reaction getting worse. Swelling increased. Pain set in. When Johnny wouldn’t eat or play, Sarah knew something was wrong.

They headed to the emergency department at Children’s. Recognizing that this was not an everyday bite, doctors admitted Johnny and began a series of tests. The medical team, working together, came to a stunning conclusion: Johnny was likely bit by a brown recluse spider, one of the world’s most venomous spiders — and one rarely seen as far north as Minnesota.

Doctors began antibiotic treatment (the only option for a brown recluse bite in the United States). The hospital’s child life specialists were on hand at every stage to ease any fears and discomfort. They used iPads to distract Johnny during tests and a Lego project to keep his mind off the needle pokes. The child life team also made sure to explain — in kid terms — what was happening so their young patient could understand his treatment.

For Sarah, a member of the Star Gala committee for Children’s, the experience was emotional. Having helped Children’s raise money for exactly these services in the past, she knew child life was important — but when her own child was experiencing it, she felt it. She now knows firsthand what a difference it makes to a family going through a scary time.

Aside from a lingering scar, Johnny’s life is back to normal. But his time at Children’s has become part of his story. And it’s a story his family won’t soon forget.

Child life specialists, like the ones who cared for Johnny, help kids feel like kids, no matter what they’re going through. They are a bright spot in so many stories. When you donate to Children’s Minnesota on Give to Kids Day, you become part of the stories, too — and you make this big-hearted brand of care possible.

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