Let me tell you a little story about two brothers, a wonderful woman and an invisible string.
When we knew that Gavin wasn't going to make it, my immediate thought was Brian. How in the world were we going to tell this sweet little boy that his brother wasn't coming home? I was so nervous. Brian had seen Gavin in the hospital before - even very sick in the intensive care unit. But this was different. Gavin was completely unresponsive and his appearance each day was changing for the worse. We finally decided to have him come in after having a discussion with the wonderful Jenn from the hospital's "Child Life" department. She told me about projects she could line up, books they could read, how she could explain what Brian could expect when he saw his brother... I was sold.
Brian came in with Miss Sara and we met Jenn from Child Life in an empty conference room. The first thing she did was give us all white butterflies. Brian... me... Daddy and Miss Sara all got one and we each colored them with markers. Jenn told us all that we had to whisper a wish on our butterfly. She explained to Brian that once we got to Gavin's room, she could whisper that wish in Gavin's ear. Then, only Gavin and Brian and the butterfly would share that wish.
Next she pulled out a wonderful book called "The Invisible String."
The book beautifully explains how there is an invisible string connecting us with ALL of our loved ones. And, at any time, you can tug on your invisible string if you want to bring someone closer to you. We all laughed as we practiced tugging on each others invisible strings. Brian loved this story (and I ordered it from Amazon before Jenn reached the last page).
After the book, we filled clear, plastic hearts with shiny gems and attached a translucent stretchy piece of string to the top. Brian made one for himself and for Gavin.
Jenn told him that the stretchy string could be like the "invisible string." Maybe he could hang it in his room and pull on it any time he misses Gavin. (That's just what he did)
She asked Brian if he wanted to get messy - and, even though Brian isn't a messy kid, he seemed to understand that these activities were important. He chose his color (red) and she placed it all over his hand so he could make a handprint on the canvas board.
It turned out beautifully.
It was time for us to go back to see Gavin. Jenn got down on his level and lovingly explained to him some of the things he might see. The tubes, the beeping, the wires. She told him she had another surprise - a teddy bear. There was one for Gavin and one for him so they'd always have the teddy bear between them.
As we walked into Gavin's room, I felt Brian's hand grip mine a little tighter. I swallowed the lump in my throat as I heard his little voice below me saying "Shhh....quiet. Gavin's sleeping."
He sweetly gave his big brother the teddy bear, saying "Here you go, Gavin!"
I lifted him up so he could give Gavin a kiss and he told him he loved him.
Jenn got to work on Gavin's handprint. Brian chose blue - which is the color we love on Gavin.
I will treasure these side by side handprints of both of my boys.
Brian's experience was profound. The Child Life department does such a great job - not just for children who are going to lose a brother or sister, but for all the patients. Gavin has enjoyed toys and videos and stuffed animals delivered to his hospital rooms by the wonderful Child Life staff in previous visits.
We really bonded with Jenn, our Child Life specialist. So much so that she came in over the weekend when she wasn't working to see us. She thought we might like a ceramic casting of Gavin's hand. We were so touched.
I can't express any more than I already have the overwhelming love I have for these two boys. My constant goal as their Mom was and is to make things right for them. I wanted to be consciously aware of their emotional needs just as much as their physical needs. Having the support of the Child Life department - and Jenn - helped me so much. She lessened my anxiety about bringing Brian in to say goodbye - Jenn worked with Miss Sara to help her handle questions from Brian after the two of them left for home - and she gave me lasting keepsakes.
Ed and I are so, incredibly grateful for the beautiful experience Child Life gave Brian... Gavin... Miss Sara... and us. We want to give back to them as our way of saying thank you. Jenn ended up convincing me that it would be okay, and I'm so grateful she did. I would bet that Gavin was the most grateful, actually. I am sure he was waiting for Brian.
Maybe someday one of them will let me in on their butterfly secret...
So, if you feel so moved - please consider giving to Nemours Child Life Department instead of sending us flowers. You can give money by going to the Nemours website and clicking on the "Make a Gift" tab. It will bring up a secure form and you should check the "other" box in the Donor Designation section. Then, down below, you can type in "Child Life Department" in the Designation Note. You will also be able to tell them that this is in memory of Gavin, which we would love very much.
If you'd like to help in a more concrete way, here is information from Jenn on what their department does and what their greatest needs are...
It is the job of Child Life Specialists to help patients and families cope with the journey of hospitalization from the youngest of children through teenagers. Sometimes, that means a quick hospital stay and sometimes it is a very long stay. Our gifted donations help provide toys to use for comfort as well as for distraction purposes during medical procedures. Birthdays, holidays, and other special events are spent in the hospital and Child Life Specialists strive to help families celebrate these moments and utilize donations to make this happen. There are also times when families need assistance coping with the end of their hospital journey. Child Life Specialists use very specific tools tailored to individual family needs including special books as a therapeutic tool. Often, families choose to have Child Life Specialists help in creating memory items to encompass a special life including plaster hand molds and handprints created on canvas with paint. It is through thoughtful donations from wonderful people that help supply Child Life Programs with the resources to provide families with these powerful tools. Whether it is a single rattle, a bottle of paint, or something larger, we appreciate and utilize all of our donations. Thank you so much for considering us.
It is never easy for a child to be hospitalized, but your thoughtfulness and generosity will allow many of our patients the opportunity to 'just be a kid' and not think about their illness or injury. A gift of toys, games, books, or crafts can do wonders to brighten a child’s life while they are in the hospital or clinic waiting room. Our Child Life programs at Nemours offer activities designed to help children cope with their hospital stay. Child Life specialists in our hospitals are trained to work with children who have serious illness or are recovering from surgery — often using toys, games, and crafts to allow them to express their fears and hopes and regain a sense of mastery and control.
We do ask that all items be new, clean, and unused for infection control purposes. Currently, we are most in need of infant/toddler items and baby dolls. Rattles and teethers are always great. Also, any toys that are made of plastic instead of cloth (so we can clean them), toys that light up or play music, anything that makes noise, and the 'Little People' figures (not the sets, just the people) are all items we need.
Child Life Assistant
Nemours/ Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children
1600 Rockland Rd.
Wilmington, DE 19803
Email: anorvell@Nemours.org; Fax: 302-651-4073
Crib Mobiles (all plastic)
Little People (just the people)
Disney Toys (Princess, Cars, Minnie/Mickey, ToyStory)
Music & Light up toys: http://www.toysrus.com/product/index.jsp?productId=13148214
Cause & Effect Toys:
4-6 year olds
Baby Dolls (all vinyl or plastic—no cloth)
Single Matchbox Cars
Plastic Tea Party Sets
Little People/ Wheelies
Fisher Price Medical Kit
6-12 year olds
Small Lego Kits
Action Figures (Spiderman, Marvel)
Play Food (Melissa & Doug)
Video Games—Rated E
Nail polish kits
New Release PG-13 DVD’s
Teen Video Games—not mature rated (Xbox kinect/360, Playstation II or III)
Sport Team items
ARTS AND CRAFT
Crayola Crayons, Markers, and Colored Pencils (8, 16, or 24 count)
Non Latex, Acrylic Paint
Bubbles- small individual bottles
Melissa & Doug Craft Kits
New Release DVD’s-- Rated G, PG, and PG 13—No R-Rated Movies
X-Box 360, Kinect, Wii, Playstation II, Playstation III, & GameCube Games-- Rated E & Teen—no Mature Rated games
Nintendo DS & Games-- Rated E & Teen—no Mature Rated games
Ear buds/ Headphones
Robots/ Robot Dinosaurs
Rubbermaid Storage Containers with Lids- (S, M, L, & XL sizes)
Books, DVD’s, & CD's in Spanish—No R-rated DVD’s
“The Invisible String” book: http://www.amazon.com/Invisible-String-Patrice-Karst/dp/0875167349
Music Therapy Items
Plastic Rainmaker/ “rain stick”
G-Project - G-Go Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker
ION Audio All-Star Guitar for the iPad
ION Audio Piano Apprentice for the iPad
ION Audio iDJ 2 Go for the iPad
Electronic Keyboard (Yamaha or Casio)
Portable Karaoke Machine
CDs for CD Pharmacy
Relaxation CDs for Kids
Radio Disney CDs
Children Music CDs
World Music CDs
Movie Soundtrack CDs
TV Show CDs
Hal Leonard The Easy Disney Fake Book
The Easy Disney Fake Book: Melody, Lyrics and Simplified Chords
Hal Leonard: The Disney Fake Book for Piano, Guitar and Vocals
The Easy Children’s Fake Book: 100 Songs in the Key of “C”
Hal Lenoard How to play from a Fake Book for Keyboard
Hal Leonard The Folksong Fake Book C Edition
Fake Book of the World’s Favorite Songs
**We are most in need of the Highlighted items**
Two more "In Liew of Flowers" requests will be posted tomorrow.
Thank you, as always, for loving our family.
Thank you, as always, for loving our family.