MY SON RICHIE was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma in February 2013.
MY SON RICHIE was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma in February 2013. Needless to say, we were all terrified at the diagnosis. Richie has always had a fear of “shots,” so much so that I wouldn’t tell him if he had an upcoming appointment for his immunizations with his doctor for fear he wouldn’t sleep at all the night before the appointment.
IN THE 10 DAYS following his initial diagnosis, he had three surgeries, three biopsies and a power port placement. Three days after the power port was placed, he had a PET scan. It was his very first port access. It went terribly wrong. There was still gauze over his port from the placement surgery, and no one had told us about the numbing cream that was to be applied 15 minutes prior to access to numb the area on his chest where they were going to poke him with two needles.
There was glue that was applied during the placement of the port to seal up the incision. As the PET scan nurse took off the gauze bandage, it was adhered to the glue on the incision. She had to gain access to his port, so she pulled it off all the while he was screaming and crying in pain. There was no time to wait for the numbing cream to work, she said, as their schedule for the PET scanner was booked. So she accessed his port that was extremely sore already amidst his screams and my tears.
He said he never wanted anyone to access his port again. Richie was scheduled to start his three months of chemotherapy in five days. When we got to the hospital for the first round of chemo, he was scared to death about anyone even touching his port. I was praying that Richie would have a better experience this time accessing his port than the first time; I knew there would be so many more accesses throughout the next nine months of his treatment.
We both had tears in our eyes as the most incredible nurse walked into the room; it was Natalie. She has a gentle spirit and a calming, comforting way about her. Natalie told Richie everything was going to be all right and that she would be his nurse today and would be accessing his port.
He was very nervous, and I could see his hands trembling as she told him to hop up on the bed. She told him this shouldn’t hurt and that he should think about a happy place. I had already put the numbing cream on this time. He hopped up on the bed; he held my hand and he went to his “happy place.” In no time, Natalie accessed his port. He didn’t even feel it!
From that moment on, his whole attitude changed about going to the hospital and getting all his treatments. Richie quickly named Natalie as his favorite nurse and requested her every time we went to the hospital. She has great compassion for all her little patients; she treats them with empathy and love.
As the months of treatment wore on, I came to see what an incredibly hard job it was to be a pediatric oncology nurse. Some of the little patients Natalie had taken care of didn’t make it. I could sense this when I entered the floor; it was never spoken, but I could just feel the sadness around me. For someone to be so genuinely caring and compassionate with her patients, and continue to be so even after suffering losses, is truly inspiring to me.
Natalie gave Richie a sense of hope and happiness every time he saw her. Natalie even came up with the idea of making a video of the children on Unit 5 to “Brave” by Sara Bareilles. She spent hours and hours of her free time on it last summer while she was in the midst of planning her own wedding.
The video went viral on YouTube and has over a million views. Natalie was portraying how brave the children were on Unit 5, but I think the nurses, especially Natalie, are just as brave. Natalie is brave by giving her love and compassion to the children, all the while knowing she will face heartbreak when one of them doesn’t make it.
Richie was one of the patients in this video, and just being in it has changed his outlook on life. Richie is no longer afraid of anything, he says; he will spend his life being brave just like the video.
Richie is, at present, cancer-free, and a better individual because of the extraordinary care and compassion of Natalie Snyder. She not only taught him a lot about cancer, but she taught him so much
more about life and compassion.
Still today, whenever we go to a clinic visit, we always have to go up to the fifth floor of the hospital and see if Natalie is working. Richie loves her so much. If she is working, he won’t leave the hospital without giving her a hug and seeing how she is doing. Natalie Snyder not only gave my son her expertise as a great pediatric oncology nurse, but she gave her love, compassion, hope and empathy to him, which I will be eternally grateful for.