Once upon a time, a little bunny faced a big trial. Thanks to her loving family and an amazing team of doctors and nurses, she not only came out alright, but came out the ridiculous, bouncy, and excitable bunny you know today. At around the age of 4, I had a bad infection that went septic and I was rushed to the ER of our local children’s hospital. Now, it’s one of the best children’s hospitals in the country.
About a month ago, I stepped back into that place, along side my Mother, who I am so very proud of, and Rein, who you all know as SmartASCII. Rein started fundraising for All Children’s St Pete last year, after hearing my story. I genuinely wasn’t sure what to expect as I crossed that threshold and as we waited, I was a little overwhelmed and nervous of what to expect and what I would see. We were met with warm smiles and friendly faces, but also soft and warm colors, children’s artwork and a playful atmosphere that felt like anything but a hospital. Our absolutely wonderful guide, Waleska, the Corporate Engagement Gift Officer, excitedly welcomed us and quickly set off to show us so many awesome things about the hospital.
For me, All Children’s was a blur. I don’t remember much, but what I do remember is filled with learning and fun. My Mother can tell you, with tears in her eyes, that it was one of the most terrifying experiences of her life. Last year, during the Extra Life stream at Amazon Game Studios in Seattle, these were the words she gave,
“If I could tell you what it’s like to hold a child that you love more than your own life, when they tell that she might die at any minute, and help you to realize that your donations make all the difference, that’s what you guys are doing. You’re tired, you’re having fun, but from the bottom of my heart, thank you.”
If you’ve seen my Extra Life streams, you know that one of my biggest points is that charity organizations like EL help kids in hospitals continue being kids. For me, it’s a pretty big one because that’s what I do remember most. I’ve lived with the scar on my hip for what seems like my entire life. My Mom can tell you that it was once a gash as wide as her thumb, complete with staples and stitches. She can tell you that I had to be held down to be given shots and that the children on my floor weren’t all as fortunate as I was in their recoveries. But, she also excitedly grins ear to ear when she proudly announces that her Baby Girl was doing fourth grade math and learning in her room. Those are the stories I remember. Pulled in a wagon in the hallways, seeing the St. Pete skyline from the balcony play area, learning multiplication in the school workbooks Mom brought for me. I remember playful wallpaper and even some of the other kids. I’m thankful.
As we talked about this with Waleska, she told us that the emphasis on education that John’s Hopkins brings to All Children’s has grown exponentially. She walked us to different areas, showing us a children’s library, family library, and how the rooms are all equipped with smart TVs that allow the kids to have a better experience. They can play games to enjoy their stay a little more, but first, they have to learn about the diagnosis they got. There is an education staff to make sure that kids are still growing and learning as they should. I stood there in an empty hospital room, grinning ear to ear, tears welling up in my eyes, proud of the things that they do for kids. Taking a child’s mind off of their diagnosis is important, but teaching them to cope, understand and move forward with what they are facing is incredible.
When I was a little bunny, our family watched the telethons for the hospital and I wanted to help. I wanted to raise. It became a bucket list goal for me. Now, I get to do it all the time. That desire has only grown in the time I’ve been a part of Extra Life, and even more so after visiting the hospital. I can tell you right now, that the care, kindness, and expertise that is being dished out at All Children’s to this day, is only going to inspire that drive in more children. I genuinely believe that it will make the generations to come better people – that it will make the world we live in a better place.
As Waleska walked us through the hospital, and I assure you that I cannot do her tour justice, she proudly repeated a few words – beacon of the community. For my family, all children’s stands out among it’s surroundings for very specific reasons. But now, it’s grown into so much more. Each floor is specialized to care for so many needs. Each family has their own room, but also access to Ronald McDonald House suites. Education is a priority, but the community is right up there. The hospital is capable of sustaining itself for two weeks to a month at full capacity with it’s generators in the event that the worst happens.
There’s a state of the art research and education facility across the street from the main building that we got to tour (there was much bunny squealing, both externally and internally). Amazing is an understatement. Once upon a time, I wanted to go into the medical profession. While we know that it didn’t work out, I’m still pretty excited about seeing really cool medical things (my super professional and scientific phrasing speaks volumes I’m sure). And let me tell you, holy crap! The center has mock rooms for all kinds of scenarios so that medical staff, but also families, can practice what they will need to be doing in a controlled and safe environment. The care and foresight that was put into them genuinely blew me away. They look like hospital rooms, drs offices, home bedrooms and surgery centers. They 3D cast special cases to be studied and then archive them to a library so that they are prepared in the event that they come up again. Soon, they will have their own 3D printer to assist in the process. I’d also like to note that all of this is going on right across the street from a well planned out and streamlined place for children to recover and heal. For parents to learn and breathe. For families to continue being families and move forward.
We saw so much and learned so much in the hour that we spent walking around. I wish I could tell you ALL the things Waleska shared with us. I wish I could make you feel what I felt, make you see the care and devotion, the planning. So, stick around, because in every stream for Extra Life I’m going to do my best to do just that.
See you soon on Twitch!