Lessons From a Seven Year Old Survivor

Yesterday I took my son Benjamin and two of his school friends to visit their schoolmate Becky, currently hospitalized in Harborview.  Becky accidentally pulled a pot of boiling water down on herself and burned her legs.  Spending time on a pediatric burn unit with four first graders was surprizingly…funny.      

Becky, a bright, confident Ethiopian girl ripped through our bag of presents, returning a 3-D nature magazine evenly with “you can keep this one.  I don’t like it.”  She then held her stuffed animal menagerie aloft one by one and announced to her visitors, “get in a line and you can help me name my stuffed animals.” 

The kids eagerly complied, lining up in fine first-grader formation in front of her hospital bed.  Each proposed a name which Becky considered in a serious manner.  She benevolently adopted almost every suggestion.  They all ate donuts together.   Becky told us about how much she was enjoying the art room in the hospital where she made paintings (Harborview staff:  hit me up for a donation!  This is a brilliant idea). 

Her mother was there when we arrived and stayed the whole time.  Her cousin explained that Becky only eats the hospital food for breakfast, and then her doting family bring her take out or homemade food for lunch and dinner, “whatever she wants.” 

We cannot eliminate tragic situations from happening.  Tragedy involving children is horrifying and I confess I hope to never know from personal experience what it’s like.  But Becky’s situation is an example of making the best of something awful in several ways:  First and foremost she is getting both the medical and emotional care that she needs to heal.  She was surrounded by family, attended to by expert nursing staff, and had had a room verily stuffed with balloons, gifts and flowers:  all evidence of her being loved by others. 

Equally important is the positive attitude that Becky herself brings to the experience.  Her ability to enjoy painting while on a pediatric burn unit is testimony to her chutzpah.  I have no doubt that in the future Becky will show her scars with pride and tell a riveting the story of the day she burned herself.

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