Pediatric patients and their heroes
Thursday, February 08, 2018
No parent should ever have to face the future knowing a child they love and cherish is going to die. But the harsh reality is that countless mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, grandpops and grandmothers do this every day.
One of the challenges is making sure the memories of their beloved child are not all of needles, surgeries, medicine and intravenous drips. Visits from comfort dogs, sports figures, musicians and movie stars can be a boost to the spirits of both the children and their families.
My family laughed as our 15-year-old teenager managed to have the comfort dog leap onto his bed. The trainer was appalled and apologetic as it certainly was not appropriate and had never happened before. Whatever evidence of the lure — breakfast bacon or sausage — had disappeared.
Sadly, our young man did not live to meet with the basketball star who had been scheduled. He died from complications of his rare genetic mutation. But we do have another amusing memory of a raucous pirate party for patients, complete with swashbuckling, unscrupulous, one-eyed, rogue pirates.
The best stories of ill children are the visits from superheroes and those stories when the child is the superhero.
In 2013, Miles Scott was a 5-year-old kindergartner from California who not only got to meet a superhero, but he got to be a superhero. Miles was diagnosed with a form of leukemia and had years of treatment.
His parents had registered his wish with the San Francisco Bay Area Make-A-Wish chapter. Miles wanted to be Batman for a day. After the wish received media attention, there were literally thousands involved in making Miles' experience truly memorable.
An adult Batman accompanied Miles as Batkid through a series of Batman adventures, including chasing the bad guys and rescuing a damsel in distress, all taking place on the streets of San Francisco. The happy news is that as of this fall Miles' cancer was in remission.
On a smaller scale, but equally heartwarming, were the efforts of a crew of window washers from Class Glass of Springfield, Missouri. During the job of cleaning the windows at the University of Missouri Children's hospital, washers dressed up as Superman, Spider-Man, Captain America and Batman. The children were able to meet the superheroes, get autographs and take pictures.
"No matter what they were there for their faces lit up once they saw them through the windows," Stephanie Baehman, the hospital spokesperson, commented. "We had one little boy who got to go home yesterday morning, he was 5, but he said, 'Not before I meet those superheroes.'"
There is also one real-life hero who takes on the identify of many superheroes in order to provide joy to sick children. Damon Cole is a police officer in Fort Worth, Texas, and it is his mission to make life happier for the children he encounters.
It started a dozen years ago when he put a Superman logo on his bulletproof vest to make the children in crisis that he encountered daily in his work a little more comfortable. Now, Cole has the complete costumes of many superheroes and visits children who need a hero in their life.
Happy 6th birthday to my HERO / BFF Paul. HERO Paul continues to kick cancers butt and he is still in remission. Every time I see HERO Paul and he smiles and laughs, it reminds me why I do what I do. I hope HERO Paul and his family have an amazing day. pic.twitter.com/g7MctCo7bF— Officer Damon Cole (@HeroesandCops) January 17, 2018
Cole has traveled to as many as 17 states to offer comfort and joy to children in hospitals. He can transform into more than a dozen different superheroes and uses elaborate and authentic-looking costumes to do so. He even has a superhero car to move him along the road. In addition to his hospital visits, Cole makes appearances at charity events.
I wish to thank the thousands of citizen volunteers who work to bring a little happiness and joy to families facing tragedy. Assuredly, had Cole been available, I would have ordered up his superhero Michelangelo from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Mutants are fabulous.
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