I think one of the most heart wrenching experiences a parent can have is seeing their child suffering and not understanding why. You just want to take away their pain and tell them that it is going to be alright. It is a blessing that we have doctors and hospitals that can help, but often going to a hospital can be a stressful and even traumatic experience–especially for a child. And if you have to travel a distance to the hospital and find somewhere to stay that adds another layer of stress.
Recently, it was found that our teenage son’s chest was pushing on his heart and lungs and most likely would continue to get worse. The doctors said he needed a metal bar inserted into his chest to push his sternum back out where it should be. A friend recommended the Shriner’s Hospital for Children in Sacramento California because of a newer procedure they performed that lessoned the pain after surgery by numbing the nerves in the chest for an extended period.
We weren’t familiar with the Shriner’s Hospital and were pleasantly surprised to learn that all of their services are offered to eligible minors regardless of the patient’s ability to pay. There are Shriner’s hospitals throughout the country and it is known as “The World’s Greatest Philanthropy.”
This was the first nice surprise in what we were expecting to be a very difficult time.
As we made arrangements for the upcoming surgery we were continually impressed with the care and concern shown by Shriner’s Hospital. We were told that we would need to stay near the hospital for “at least a week, maybe two” after his surgery. If we had stayed in a regular hotel the cost would have been very high, but we were impressed again when they informed us of some alternatives that were built specifically to help those who had traveled to be treated at the hospital. The list, among others, included The Ronald McDonald House and also The Kiwanis Family House. Both of these are low cost (the Ronald McDonald House is free if you can’t make a payment) to patients and family members.
We ended up staying at the Kiwanis Family House and were very grateful for that facility. We were a little concerned before we arrived – not knowing what a ‘Kiwanis Family House’ was and if it would be a good fit for our situation. We looked online to try to get a better idea what the Kiwanis house was like, but didn’t find very many pictures or details (I’ve since found a few more).
Some of our questions were: Was this actually just a house with multiple bedrooms? What kind of condition was it in? Would we have privacy? Would we have to go up or down stairs? Would we be sharing a room? Would our 6’1” 14 year-old have a bed he could fit into? Would it be quiet enough for our son to rest during the day? And when he was awake, would there be a television in the room that he could control to distract him from the pain? What about cooking? Was there access to a stove and a refrigerator?
Etc., etc., etc.
Once we arrived, our concerns were resolved as we found the building to be arranged more like a single level hotel, but with shared kitchens, and a laundry room. The rooms weren’t fancy, but they were great for what we needed. Our room was just large enough for our 3 single beds and two nightstands in between them with a television on a dresser on the opposite wall that we hooked our Xbox 360 up to. Each room has its own bathroom with a toilet, sink, and walk-in shower. There was a very small place to hang up some clothes, a cordless telephone, and a window to the outside world.
The thing that was most impressive to me, was the markers outside each door and even the hallways that showed who sponsored each space. (The Putnam Family was listed on our door.) The kitchens had canned and boxed food items that had been donated by people in the community. Clothes and other items had also been donated. Volunteers showed up to vacuum and clean the building. And financial contributions kept everything running. All of this made it clear to me that it was intended to be a healing place – built out of love and generosity.
The Shriner’s Hospital down the street was the same way. Each person that worked there seemed to know that they were part of something great. Yes, surgeries were painful, but the pain was for a good cause. And the difference they made was impossible to measure. Parents from the community volunteered to help do crafts and run activities for the patients and their siblings, and doctors divided their time between hospitals to make a difference in families’ lives.
It is truly amazing the good that exists in the world. And that was just one example! There are similar hospitals, and family houses in other cities; and many other philanthropic organizations that we’ve probably never even heard of that are quietly making the world a little bit better each day.
As we were driving back to Utah, we got a call from The Kiwanis Family House. We had left one of our personal items and they said they would hold it for us. We explained that we wouldn’t be back for another 3 months, and the nice lady on the phone said that wasn’t a problem. That it would be waiting for us when we returned.
After our experience in Sacramento, I had a little more belief in people and hope for the world. I had a greater desire to somehow pay it forward. I wanted to some day have the money to help with one of these kinds of causes. And even now to find some way to do something good for someone else. Have you experienced an unexpected generosity? Have you had the opportunity to serve or donate to a good cause? We’d love for you to share in the comments section below.