A Sick Toddler
It all began late one spring when my brother got sick… Just like any other kid would… sore throat, headache, slight fever. But after a couple days and visit to the pediatrician, he did not feel better. Then, he stopped eating, and had excruciating headaches and very high fevers that did not respond to medications. Multiple doctors’ visits and many tests revealed no cause of illness and we were told that he had a virus and it would resolve itself… but his condition continued to deteriorate. Finally, after 2 weeks of being in and out of emergency rooms, he was admitted for pneumonia.
As specialists continued to evaluate him, they realized something much more serious was making this little 3 year old sick. More tests were done and he was diagnosed with Lemierre's Syndrome. This is a condition where bacteria infects your body, and your immune system, in the attempt to fight off the infection, produces infectious blood clots in the patient’s body. Chad had two clots in his external jugular veins in his neck and one in his lungs. His condition was so bad that immediately after finding these clots, he was transferred from one hospital to another via an ambulance and admitted to the pediatric Intensive Care Unit.
The next few weeks were like a whirlwind and my parents were at the hospital 24/7. I was cared for by very kind and close family friends and family. Today, we are lucky to have Chad fully recovered 14 year-old, happy, enthusiastic ninth grader.
Gratitude and Miracle Workers
The time of his hospitalization was an eye opening experience for my family. It was so hard to watch my adorable, fun-loving little brother lying in that hospital bed, looking so small, fragile, and lifeless. But as horrifying as this scene was for us, we realized there were worse conditions. All you had to do was look around in the hospital, down the hall and see there were children with cancer. Children with no hair or eyebrows, pale white skin, face masks covering half their face, and IVs coming out of their arms hooked up to a huge machine. As devastated as my family was, we knew we were extremely lucky because there were families who lost children.
One thing I remember from the hospital experience is the expertise of the miracle-worker doctors and nurses. I also remember a group there called Child Life Specialists, whose job is to make the hospital stay more pleasant. These Specialists’ job was to bring toys to the sick children and educate and support the parents. They were always there trying to entertain these sick kids with toys or other simple activities. One of the few times that Chad actually smiled was when he received a Hot Wheels car, given to him by a Specialist. Seeing Chad smile gave everyone a spark of hope and joy, hoping that he was starting to recover and be more like himself.
My family is forever grateful for all of the support shown to us, especially to Chad, during the stressful process. I am so appreciative to have my entire family and feel extremely blessed to be in good health. After the traumatic experience, I realized that children becoming sick is tragic, but all too common. Even after he was fully recovered, something had changed, something was different in the family. I recognized I wanted to give back and help others. But how? After some thought and discussions with my family, I realized my call was rooted in something I was already doing and enjoying: swimming. I needed to figure out how to utilize this for the benefit of others.
Combining swimming with service, this is when I started my own fundraiser called Kick for Kids, a kick-a-thon, benefiting brave children fighting for their health. I met with Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s health and set up a website. I promoted the kick-a-thon by raising awareness for the need. I organized this annual event and enlisted the help of members of my swim team. Together we sought donations from sponsors, and then we kicked laps across the pool for sixty minutes, raising money for Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. One hundred percent of the proceeds was given to the Child Life Specialists to utilize in ways they deem necessary in improving the pediatric patients stay in the hospital.
Initially, I did not know what to expect. I thought that I would have an average turnout and only a handful of donations. I was completely shocked when so many team members embraced this cause and kick-a-thon. My teammates showed up and nearly every one of them made a donation, raising over $2,000 the first year. I truly did not expect so many people to compliment the event and support me in fundraising. I did not expect that I could make a difference; I was just little 13 year-old Cyrus trying to do something good in the big world. In the each year following that first event, the fundraiser has grown. I have included my entire swim site, around 250 swimmers ages 7-18, and we have risen almost $50,000 in six years.
Through long hours of organizing, communicating, educating my teammates, coordinating the event, and the actual kicking, I have learned that not only giving back to the community is a valuable and vital responsibility, but also a humbling, sobering and gratifying experience. Each one of the swimmers who participates is giving back in their own way. There is nothing more heart-warming than seeing a little sick child’s face light up when he or she receives a little toy car or coloring book. There is nothing more humbling than to see joy in the faces of these brave and courageous kids who persevere in the presence of suffering. I hope I can touch as many lives of sick children and their families in the hospital by helping them get through the tough times.
Cyrus Morrison, Founder