Each day I get to interact with the most amazing patients and families. I could tell you endless stories of love, strength, obstacles and triumphs that would fill your spirit with such admiration for these kids.
As a child I was a patient at the very hospital I now work. This makes my role in PR that much more rewarding. I feel I can give back to this great mission by promoting the miracles that happen inside these walls every day. The best part is I get to be a mentor to so many patients. Giving not only the patient but their family hope that their child can accomplish their hopes and dreams just like everyone else. That their child might face some road blocks because of their disability, but that doesn't mean there isn't an alternate route to their desired destination.
I love when I am asked by our female patients what my adolescents was like. Questions usually thrown my way are:
Can I go to prom? You most certainly can, and you will look like a princess!
Will a non disabled person want to date me? Of course. My hubby is not disabled.
I hate it that I look different than my friends. How can I fit in? First of all, you are fabulous just the way you are. I went through a period of wearing a back brace that didn't allow me to wear the same clothes all my friends were wearing and it drove me crazy. Don't worry about the latest trends or being like other people. You just be you. Self confidence is the best outfit you can put on, it isn't the actual clothes or accessories that make you special, and everyone will love you for it.
I don't understand it. In elementary school (or middle school) I had so many friends. When I changed schools and went to middle school (or high school), everyone is picking on me. Even my old friends are now picking on me. What did you do when you were picked on in school? . . .UH OH (How do I answer this one?)!
I have heard more horror stories of our patients getting picked on in school because they have a disability than I can count. Parents have had to start home schooling their children because the verbal "abuse" from their peers was becoming so bad for their child the only way to end it was to home school. It breaks my heart to hear that these amazing kids at some point in their academic career are getting picked on so severely.
The problem is this. I have always been in a wheelchair but in mainstream or honors classes. I was always the only disabled person in any of my classes. You would think I would be a prime target for being picked on right? WRONG!
Not one day in my academic career was I picked on. NOT ONE DAY. From preschool to grad school, I was treated as an equal, because I was. . .and I believed that. I had a ton of friends, was editor-in-chief of my high school newspaper, was in different clubs, won both academic and social awards, etc.
The thing that would amaze me is my friends who 100% accepted me would make fun of another person in a wheelchair IN FRONT OF ME! What the heck people? How can you be friends with me and do something like that?
I understand that you don't have to have a disability to be picked on. My hubby for example tells me stories of how he was picked on in school, and so does one of my best friends; he says the same. So why was never picked on?
So here I am, with a patient and/or parent of a patient who is looking to me to provide the answer to the "How do I fit in and not get picked on" question and I have no true to life example to give.
I have thought at times that maybe I should make up a story that would help them feel they are not alone. That I understand their pain. Then I realize, that is not going to help the situation. In fact, I might do more harm then good.
The truth does come out and I explain that I have never been picked on, but I think I can help.
I remember as a child, my father telling me that people will pick on you because they want to see a reaction. They want to see they have "gotten to you." If you don't respond, they quit doing it. I never had to apply that technique, but I offer it up as a possible suggestion.
Then I get real. The most important point I try to instill in them is how wonderful they are. No matter what anyone says. I know it is painful to hear negative things, especially from those they considered their friends, but the truth is they are amazing. They need to believe that. That is the key. The self confidence of knowing their chair, their brace, their walker. . .does not define who they are.
I may not have the answers to everything, but I am honored they feel comfortable and confident coming to me. I just hope that through my compassion they find the strength to get through their heartache.