My First Time at the Riley Children's Hospital Teen Leadership Council
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I did something I never in a million years thought I’d be doing on a Tuesday night as a high schooler. I spent my night at Riley Children’s Hospital, which isn't such a rare event for me particularly, but this night, it was. I attended my first meeting for TLC. TLC stands for Teen Leadership Council. It was the second meeting and I decided to go.
This was my first time in the Downtown Riley Children’s Hospital because we always schedule my appointments at the Carmel Children’s Hospital. At the Carmel location, they don’t have outpatient care for children.
This meeting was held in the Children’s Life Wing of the hospital. To me, it seems to have a great atmosphere, but I am also not a child fighting the battle against cancer. It’s a space where kids and teen Riley patients can enjoy themselves.
When we left the room we were located in for our discussions, there were two children playing with playdough and making crafts. I distinctly remember glancing over and watching these two precious kids. There was a boy about eleven or twelve years old, dressed in one of those pre-surgery hospital gowns that make you feel sick just knowing you have to wear them. He was losing his brown hair and had a buzzcut with balding patches surrounding his head. The boy was attached to his IV the type of way you would expect see your pet dog walk alongside you. I couldn’t help my heart from ultimately breaking into millions of pieces. It is the type of feeling you read about in books, see in movies with dramatic music softly playing in the background, and a feeling that should come rarely.
I realize this sounds extremely cliche, but I honestly felt a change happen inside of me. As if something had just clicked. I couldn’t stop feeling so much pain for this innocent child who I’d never even spoken to. It was his eyes that told me everything. I haven’t been able to get that image out of my head since last night and something tells me there’s a reason for that.
Once I got home, it was really eye-opening to think about how I just spent my night. I literally just spent two hours of my teenage life at a children’s hospital downtown and actually enjoyed it for once. It was nice to be with other girls who genuinely understood what I am going through and how I feel, and to see the young boy in the Children's Life wing enjoying playing with his peers despite his illnesses. I look forward to continuing to be involved with the Riley Teen Leadership Council and serving as a role model for other kids, like the boy playing with playdough, who are dealing with chronic illness.
Caroline, a recent graduate of Hamilton Southeastern, was diagnosed with Juvenile Psoriatic Arthritis nearly three years ago. This condition is one of the most rare chronic illnesses as it only affects one in every one-million children. She is now a chronic illness advocate and blogger, as she writes about her ongoing challenges growing up as a teenager with an invisible illness. For more information, check out her blog at www.deareverybodyandnobody.wordpress.com Caroline is also a member of the Riley Children's Hospital Teen Leadership Council, which has a mission of making a difference in the community and teaching teens how to practice vital leadership and self-advocacy skills.