By: Guya Avshara
Walking into a brightly lit room full of toys, a huge connect 4 game, and a POOL table, I was incredibly nervous to start my first shift on unit 44/45 last Fall. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, and being that I’m typically introverted, I was worried I’d have trouble interacting with the kids and their families. I remember taking a couple of deep breaths and soaking in what I now know to be the Swamp room, then heading out the door only to be stopped in my tracks. At first, I only heard a loud “HI MY FRIEND!” and looked down to see a bouncy young boy, eager to play with his newest friend (me). He gave me this huge toothy grin and asked if I wanted to see his new train set. I opened my mouth to respond, and he was already grabbing my hand and leading me to his room. The nurses he yelled "Hello" to all seemed accustomed to his excitement and smiled at me as I was being led by the little boy. I remember thinking to myself there’s no way it’s that easy- I just stood there in awe (and then of course cried on the way home at how this sweet patient took away every ounce of self-doubt I had experienced thus far).
The most grounding part of this shift was the immediate exposure to just how significant what we do is. As support buddies, our interactions mean far more than playing games or watching movies. Our presence alone provides the kids with an outlet for feeling like just kids. I remember during this particular shift the patient’s nurse had told me he was having a bad day relating to medical treatment. When I saw how quickly his energy recharged and how excited he was to sit together and watch his new train go around the tracks a million times, I was able to grasp how important our work can be for providing comfort for these kids. I was so happy to sit and listen to him ooh and ahh every time the train when over the bridge in his set. My entire first shift was spent watching the train and staring out the room’s window pointing out the cars and trucks. His excitement never waned, and I quickly realized neither did mine.
I think about this patient and this shift every time I have the privilege of going back. Having been on the unit for a year now, I’ve had the opportunity to spend time with children and adults, patients and families, and truly recognize why I love volunteering and why programs like Footprints are so important. Beyond the patient, getting to give parents time to go eat or take a break is always a huge reminder to extend company to the caregivers of the patients we interact with. Sometimes, we’ll get to strike up conversations and offer some reprieve from the medical talk. Other times, we’ll play board games and share special moments of unrestricted joy. I am so grateful to be able to be part of these special moments and part of an organization like Footprints full of people just as excited about letting kids be kids.
Guya Avshara is a senior majoring in Biochemistry. She joined Footprints in Fall of 2021.