Each year one week in February is Congenital Heart Defects Awareness Week. Along with Valentine’s Day this year we celebrated CHD Awareness Week at the Children’s Hospital of Orange County’s Heart Patient Reunion Party. Other than dropping off donations to CHOC, we have not been there since Angel’s surgery in 2013.
For those of you new to ISP, these are two of many photos of the time that inspired us to start the Infinite Smile Project.
As new parents stepping into this world of terminology and technology we didn’t understand – a scene like this was something we weren’t prepared for. Rounds of doctors appointments, tests, constant illnesses and one failed procedure followed by a successful one. To say we came out the other side with a child to bring home is a blessing as we saw and met many that did not.
ISP is rooted with the people that were there during that time and offered kindness and support. This event reinforced that same feeling. Seeing the staff, nurses, therapy dogs, and even the Director of Cardiothoracic Surgery and Angel’s surgeon, Dr. Richard Gates, was such a welcomed day at the hospital to celebrate life instead of waiting fearing the worst next to small hospital beds and cribs.
We wanted to share a few photos of this amazing event CHOC hosted over Valentine’s week for all the former heart patients whose lives were saved because of these amazing people.
If I had to pick one thing I remember most from those days at CHOC it has to be the therapy dogs. While Angel was in her second surgery and nervous small talk wasn’t working, we ran into some therapy dogs in the cafeteria. Spending some time with them and their owners were a Godsend. They are hired for the kids but provide just as much for the parents. Once Angel was awake and feeling better on Day 4 Blue came into our room and it was the first time we saw her smile. No price can be put on this program in a children’s hospital. If you are interested in exploring having your dog serve as a therapy dog click here for more information. Coolest part? They even get their own “baseball” card.
One of the things I thought was fantastic and I would like to get ISP to get involved in were the number of children there to volunteer. Starting at what appeared to be age 8 or 9, children were warm and welcoming to parents and children helping them with food, crafts, activities, you name it. CHOC even had child celebrities picking up our plates and interacting with our children. I couldn’t tell you who this girl was but apparently everyone else did but me.
It was incredible to see so many children in one room happy and healthy. We figured in attendance were probably only about 5% of those patients in the last 5 years. To see how many families can be affected by CHD in Orange County alone was astounding.
They had such a great time making crafts, seeing other children their age and playing with animals. Such a wonderful way to honor these children who were born with CHD. Even better seeing a room with so many of them healthy.
Whether you have kids or not, have a personal experience with a children’s hospital in your area or not, one of the best things you can do is donate time, goods, or provide some love and kindness to these hospitals. Not for just the children but for the doctors, nurses, volunteers, janitors….it doesn’t matter. They all make up the experience for the patient and their families. If money is tight simply making cards and posters from your kids to those families and children currently staying at a children’s hospital means so much. If you are retired or have some free time on your hands and want to do something that will give back to you emotionally as you do to them consider volunteering at the hospitals or even the Ronald McDonald House. I cannot express enough how amazing the Ronald McDonald House is for these families. If you’ve experienced it, you know.
Or, you can just be creative. This child at my niece and nephew’s school in Portland, Oregon, did the most incredible thing on Valentine’s Day at his school. Give kids an opportunity to do good and they will blow you away with their creativity and compassion. Here is the story of how this child turned Valentine’s Day into a class party for kids in a hospital.
From our Smile Advisors, Angel and Peanut, we hope you had a wonderful Valentine’s Day spreading love to those who need it most.