Memphis, TN 2 - Children's Health (Post 4)

It's hard to believe that we only have one more day of service until we pack our bags and head back to Columbia. It's been an awesome, life-changing ride that has humbled each and every one of us. Below is some commentary, written by various members of our trip!

Steven: Today was incredibly humbling and forced me outside of my comfort zone. While working in the Family Resource Center, I helped organize some of the shelves and read to and played with some precious children. As the first shift drew to a close, the princess I was reading to kept replacing the book with a new, longer one so as to prevent me from leaving! It was hard to say goodbye. During my second shift I was a unit buddy, which made me take an honest look at my life and my "problems." When you look after a young boy attached to a permanent feeding tube and respirator, you get a well-needed wakeup call: Our problems are minuscule to the challenges these brave children face each and every day.

Quinn: I've always heard it's the little things in life that mean the most. Whether this is true or not, the wonderful patients and caring staff at Le Bonheur make it seem that way. Some of the patients are at the hospital for months on end with serious illnesses, yet they smile every time someone brings them a coloring book or plays a game with them. The parents have been in and out of the hospital often dealing with some of the heaviest news imaginable, yet they couldn't act more appreciated when offered a complimentary coffee or a breakfast bar. And the staff work the crazy hours customary of any hospital, except you'd never know it because they seem as hopefully as the patients and their families. The eternal optimism felt within this hospital is so contagious that you can't help but catch it.

Mikko: Le Bonheur is truly one of THE BEST children's hospitals ever imaginable. The hospital provides countless and uplifting opportunities. As part of the activity cart, I really gained a lot of experience with how little things can really make a difference. As one of our MAB principles, "Poco a poco" is all about knowing that we are not going to change the world in one week but little acts such as being present and/or providing activities to the kids can really mean the world to them and their families. When I walked into a room of a little boy with a "King" crown to decorate, the child and his mother were beyond appreciative. This positive energy lit up the room and brightened up their entire stay. It seems crazy to think that such a simple task can cause such strong emotion, but given what these families are constantly facing, any sign of "not being alone" or "being acknowledged" is what really matters. That is exactly what we, as volunteers, provide through our service at Le Bonheur.

Emilie: Today I had the opportunity to spend an hour with an incredibly sweet, wiggly baby boy. I held him while we watched Finding Nemo, and I became completely smitten with him. When his mother came back to the room, she thanked me for taking care of her "little angel" and told me I was welcome to come back and visit them any time before next week, when they would finally be able to go home. It turned out that my little friend had been born prematurely, and had spent his entire life at LeBonheur. It was incredible to be able to share in his mother's joy at the thought of finally bringing her little angel home for the first time.

Gabrielle: I did the activity cart this morning with Mikko and Emilie. Mikko and I both wore party hats when delivering the crafts. We walked into a room and a little girl squealed, "Happy Birthday!" because she thought it was our birthdays. It made me laugh and honestly was the highlight of my day.

Carmen: I was a unit buddy both in the morning and the afternoon and I loved every second of it! I got to see one of the babies I met today go home and that was really awesome! I sat and sang to a baby that wasn't able to make noise due to a tracheotomy and it was extremely humbling because her facial expressions and body language indicated that she was happy that I was by her side. I also spent time with a family who had a little baby boy that had spent all 17 days of his short life at Le Bonheur. I was overjoyed to just stay in the room and talk to them and have them get to know me and vice versa. I love every minute I've spent at Le Bonheur and this experience is something that I will remember for the rest of my life.

Rio: I was so happy today because I finally got a chance to be a unit buddy. I watched and played with a 9 month old baby. It was kind of funny because at first I thought he was a girl. I kept on addressing him as a baby girl until the nurse told me that he was a baby boy after 30 minutes of watching him. Holding a baby is not really my thing because I've been afraid of possibly harming the baby, but today was magical because Emilie taught me how to hold a baby. I let him sit on my lap and we watched t.v. together. He had an alphabet train toy so we played with it until he fell asleep. I'm so glad that today was his last day at the hospital!

Katie: Today was my favorite day thus far. I read to a patient in the ICU in the morning, and was asked personally to come back in the afternoon to read again. The patient was a sweet girl, and very well known in the hospital because her nephew had been a patient there for six years. I was told before going into her room that she is not very responsive physically nor can she speak. At most, she is able to answer yes or no questions by shaking her head. When I started to read, I was unsure if she would be able to understand what was really going on. To my surprise, she would smile when something funny happened, or would move her feet when she was excited to hear what was coming next. The nurse told me that was the most movement and interaction she has had in weeks. Sitting with her today really changed my perspective in life. It's these types of interactions that really put things into perspective. I feel so fortunate and humbled to have been in her presence today.

Luke: Heyyyyooo. Our trip is going fantastically. We're making all kinds of new best friends here. I've fallen in love with a few young ladies here at LeBonheur. This one nine-year-old in particular stole my heart completely. Just as she was about to have a scan done and I had to leave, she asked me, "Can you stay?" I stayed with her until her scan was done and those are now my three favorite words in the English language. We all bonded very well as a group this evening while playing a new game our wondrous site leaders introduced to us. Now we're watching The Dark Knight so that pretty much makes us the best group ever. Dueces y'all. (The accent was picked up from the Southern folk down here).

Erin: The beverage cart was a great experience. we all wore crowns because we were celebrating being at Le Bonheur and that today is another day. Everyone was so happy to see us happy and royals. I never knew how much joy coffee and hot chocolate could bring people but it was just that little cup of joy they needed to start their day. Game-a-palooza was amazing! We danced and sung and got to hand out prizes to kids and parents. Seeing their faces light up when they saw all the toys and knowing we get to give them a well deserved gift was so rewarding. I never want to leave Le Bonheur, there is hope and magic around every corner.

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