[Photo, top: Sam Frank (left) and her child life specialist, Meghan, 2018]
One of the top award winners of the CIA Medical 2019 Scholarship honoring healthcare heroes is Sam, a student studying Family and Human Services with a concentration in Child Life at Towson University.
Sam’s winning essay focuses on Meghan, the child life specialist who cared for her when being treated for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia when she was three years old.
Experiencing the uncertainty of illness at any age is scary, but can be even more so for children. Child life specialists are pediatric health care professionals trained in the developmental impact of illness who work with children and families to help them cope with the challenges of hospitalization, treatment and disability. Their impact on a child’s life often lasts long after their interaction, as illustrated in Sam’s essay.
CIA Medical is proud to present Sam’s 2019 Scholarship Award winning essay on Meghan.
From Survivor to Supporter, From Patient to Specialist
An essay by Sam Frank
Last year I began my search for colleges and for my career path. I knew I loved helping others and I loved kids, but that was all I knew. I did lots of research about potential jobs, but nothing really caught my eye until my parents mentioned a child life specialist.
A child life specialist is someone who prepares children and their families emotionally on how to when coping with the difficulties of illness and disability. This job is perfect for me because I know first hand how influential a child life specialist can be.
When being treated for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia when I was three years old, I had my own child life specialist, Meghan. She had such a great impact on me in my five months of chemotherapy and two years of observation, that I want to follow in her footsteps and become a child life specialist and help those who were in the same position as I was in.
She was there for most of my treatments, but especially big events like my final surgery in 2006. I remember receiving a gift from Meghan before I got dressed in a hospital gown and was wheeled into the surgery room. I didn’t know it then, but this was the first time I would truly feel afraid.
I woke up surrounded by doctors in white masks and the most terrible pain I’ve ever felt. My parents weren’t in the room, so I screamed for them to take me back into their loving arms. I did eventually return to my parents and Meghan who were waiting for me, but learned from this that I was a survivor. I had beaten my battle against cancer, faced the worst pain in my life, and I’m still here to tell my story.
“During my stay at the hospital before my final surgery, Meghan would spend time with me in the playroom, having tea parties and making crafts. She dedicated her time to making me happy and calming me down during my treatment, especially before big procedures.”
During my stay at the hospital before my final surgery, Meghan would spend time with me in the playroom, having tea parties and making crafts. She dedicated her time to making me happy and calming me down during my treatment, especially before big procedures. Being alone in the hospital, aside from my family, Meghan made me feel like I had a true friend who was always looking out for me. She gave me a three foot tall Dora doll that we used to put a needle in just like the nurses did to me. This helped me have peace; if Dora could do it, so could I! All of Meghan’s support, care, and dedication has inspired me, even now, twelve years later, and I want to do the same for other children. I want to inspire others as she inspired me. She helped make my hospital stay enjoyable and bearable.
It was only because of Meghan’s care and love that I decided to become a child life specialist. I got to reconnect with Meghan during my senior year of high school when I got to volunteer at the hospital she works for. Before this I hadn’t seen or heard from Meghan in around twelve years. What I didn’t realize was that she worked at the hospital I was volunteering at and I was able to help her at least once a week. Getting to talk to her now, I was able to solidify by desire to pursue a career in child life. It also gave me a whole new perspective. She showed me how to approach patients and clean toys. By following her, I saw how to interact with a child in the hospital with gentleness but also treat them as they are no different than any other child. I am so thankful for all Meghan taught me as a child and last year. We still keep in contact and I plan on continuing that. She inspired my career and has become such a mentor to me. She really showed me the impact I could make on others, and I got to encourage her that she was making a difference.
Battling cancer helped me become the person I am today. It showed me the value of life and has given me a sense of life experience. I feel I’ve lived my life with more of a purpose than I would if I didn’t have this experience. Cancer has taught me not to dwell or stress on the little things in life, but to focus on the bigger picture. My experience has shown me that sick doesn’t mean damaged, and sometimes the worst things in life turn out to be the best. Thankfully, that was the case in my life.
Because of Meghan, I want to become a child life specialist. Because of cancer, I never take life for granted. I strive to make every day count. I try to let those in my life know I care for them. I hope to be a positive influence on others, even just with a smile. I strive to laugh a lot and to complain less. When I’m gone, I want others to have been impacted by me, like I was by Meghan. By becoming a child life specialist, I hope to do this and be an encouragement to those who need it.
Being a child life specialist isn’t the most glamorous or well-paying job. Some of my family and friends believe I should strive to achieve my “full potential” as a doctor or engineer. I believe, however, that becoming a child life specialist would be so much more rewarding than if I had a distinguished title or high salary.
In order to become a child life specialist, I will need to complete a bachelor’s degree, a as well as six hundred hours of internships. I’ve decided to pursue my bachelors in Family and Human Services with a concentration in Child Life at Towson University, and I also strive to achieve a master’s degree in Child Life.
Becoming a child life specialist is very competitive and I will probably have to wait years after I graduate to get the position I want. However, it will be worth the effort to be able to help children with long term illness or disability, kids just like me.
About the Author: Sam Frank
Sam is a freshman attending Towson University who hopes to become a child life specialist, inspired by her own child life specialist. She will need to complete at least a bachelors degree, but aspires to get a masters in Child Life. She strives to focus her attention on becoming the best version of herself in order to help others who are in the same position she was in.
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