Bringing cheer to ailing children

Courtesy of Emily Young

It was hard to tell who had the bigger smiles, Emily Young and her teammates or the young patients they visited.

Last Friday, our team visited the LAC+USC Medical Center's pediatrics unit to bring some cheer and smiles to the patients, who really welcomed the pleasant change from their regular hospital routines.

When we arrived at the pediatric playroom, we were all taken aback by how the room was decorated with USC volleyball signs and by how excited the kids and nurses were to see us.

First, we visited Evan, a young boy who had injured his legs. Samantha Bricio talked with him, and they made some Play-Doh sculptures. Evan's job was to hold on to the Play-Doh as it dropped out of the machine, and Hannah Schraer and Sara Shaw would try to cut it before it broke.

Courtesy of Emily Young

Emily Young also got to visit with the children's doctors.

With all of us in the room, the nurses thought it would be a good time to have Evan try to use his walker, since he had a whole spirit squad at his side. We cheered as he used the walker to move himself across the room. We all lit up with smiles when the nurses explained that he had been able to stand for only three seconds the day before.

Outside of the playroom, we went from room to room to visit different patients. We got to see so many patients and shared so many smiles and so much laughter that it would be hard for me to talk about them all. But I did get to meet a few patients whom I will never forget.

When we walked in to visit Ishmeray, a 10-year-old girl, we interrupted her music therapy. Although she was shy, we convinced her to sing for us. She had such a beautiful, soft, soprano voice. She sang "We Are Young" by the band Fun. Our whole team joined her in singing the chorus. At the end of our visit, we told Ishmeray that she had an amazing voice and that she should always keep singing. Alicia Ogoms and I stayed behind to color with her for a while. I realized that I was out of my league at drawing flowers, as Hannah gave me a lesson on how to draw roses. She is on another level. Meanwhile, Alicia and Ishmeray exchanged pictures, each taking an imprint of the other.

Down the hall, doctors were crowded into a room around a small toddler. They said we could wave to the patient but that we could not stay. Natalie Hagglund handed the small girl one of the USC T-shirts that we had been giving to all the patients. The little girl's arms flailed with excitement, and she started tugging the shirt she had on. With the help of the doctors, she put on her new USC volleyball shirt and smiled brightly, a newly indoctrinated member of our team.

We were able to visit only one patient in the intensive care unit. The girl's father was standing by her bed reading the Bible while her mother sat next to her holding her hand. Both parents greeted us with smiles and explained that their daughter wasn't able to speak. We offered her a T-shirt that the father held up to show her. All of a sudden, her oxygen indicator glowed red as she reached out for the shirt. Her eyes lit up and her parents were so happy to see her respond. The father thanked us and we went on to the next room.

A small boy named Xavier occupied the last room we visited. His grandmother was with him and said, "Look at all the angels walking in!" We smiled and gave him a shirt to remember us "angels" by, but the grandmother insisted on a picture. We all giggled while trying to stay still for the multiple photos that were being taken by the nurses.

As we left the hospital, my teammates shared stories about the patients we had become attached to and expressed concern for patients who did not have family who could visit them often. We definitely plan to visit our friends at the LAC+USC Medical Center again. We were so happy and grateful that we had the opportunity to bring the patients some smiles, but we were even more amazed at the wonderful job that their caregivers do from day to day.