Superheroes on a Mission
One by one, kids of all ages leave their hospital rooms and come to the fourth-floor lobby of Sanford Children’s Hospital in Fargo. Some are in wheelchairs, others bring their IV poles, and still others rest in the arms of their parents.
It’s June 19, and this is the day the superhero window-washers arrive. Their mission: to brighten the day of hospitalized children.
“I think I see a cape,” says a boy standing close to the wall of windows, peering up several stories to the roof. The other kids move closer, hoping for a glimpse. The chatter intensifies. Wide-eyed and watching, the kids wait.
Who will the superheroes be? How many? What will they do?
A black boot descends. “Here they come!” announces a boy. “I see Batman!” says another. “And there’s Spiderman!” says a girl.
The kids beam, forgetting they’re in a hospital. Tired-looking parents take photos, appreciating the sheer joy of this moment. A few wipe away tears. This is an experience they’ll never forget.
Suspended on ropes, the two masked-wonders scale their way down inch by inch. They wave, give a thumbs-up and raise their hands in high-fives. The kids do the same in return.
At a place where the days can be difficult, this is a dream come true.
One family’s experience
Hours earlier, 8-year-old Julianna Becker from Fargo learned from her nurse that the superheroes would be washing windows that day. Her mom, Kristina Swenson, had stepped out for a cup of coffee.
“When I came back, Julianna was so excited and kept saying the superheroes are coming, the superheroes are coming. I had no idea what she was talking about, but I could see it really livened her up,” says Kristina. “For the past couple days she’d been pretty out of it.”
Julianna arrived at Sanford Children’s on June 17 because of a fast-moving, severe foot infection. She needed lifesaving IV antibiotics and close monitoring. Kristina stayed by her side night and day.
One of the toughest things for Julianna has been the IV starts. Because she was so dehydrated, the nurses had trouble finding a useable vein.
“The staff, including the child life specialists, were wonderful in how they distracted her and helped her relax,” says Kristina. “Words can’t describe what that means to a parent. The last thing you want to see is your child suffering.”
Helping kids be kids
For Melissa Schmautz, one of 10 child life specialists at Sanford Children’s in Fargo, the visit by the superhero window-washers was a new way to bring smiles to kids.
“Being in a hospital isn’t much fun, so we do lots of different things to brighten their day,” she says. “When we saw a national news story about superhero window-washers at another children’s hospital, we said ‘why not?’ We reached out to the community and the response was amazing. A & B Windows of Fargo wanted to make it happen.”
Julianna ranked the experience as one of the coolest in her life. “My brother is going to be so jealous,” she says.
But the fun didn’t stop at windows. When the superheroes finished their work outdoors, they made their way up the elevator to Sanford Children’s. They walked up and down the hall, stopping in every room possible to greet the kids, pose for pictures and give a gift: superhero pillowcases donated by volunteers.
One mom said her son was absolutely speechless when he saw Spiderman and Batman walk into his room. “My little guy doesn’t feel too well right now, so it was really fun when they came to see him.”
Julianna liked her one-on-one visit, too. “They came to my room just to see me,” she says. “It was so exciting.”
The superheroes also visited the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and Roger Maris Cancer Center.
By that afternoon, the superhero window-washers had accomplished their mission and moved on to their next big adventure. The kids returned to their lives as patients, but with something entirely new to think about.
“Julianna’s going to be talking about this for a long time,“ says Kristina. “I think that’s true of all the kids. How often do you get to see Batman and Spiderman walk into your room?”
But the web slinger and the dark knight are not the only superheroes.
“Julianna’s been through a lot these past few days. She’s been so brave,” says Kristina, her eyes tearing up. “She’s my hero.”
Posted Date: August 2013