My Happy Place

by Brooke Boyle

Last week, I got to visit my happy place and witness a most awe inspiring moment - all because of a very technical meeting we had scheduled for that afternoon. 

Christina and I were gloriously early for a meeting with JJ Bouchard, The Mott Golf Classic Digital Media Manager at The University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital.  JJ is a certified child life specialist and certified therapeutic recreation therapist. We were there to meet him because JJ is our champion for bringing augmented reality into the hospital as part of a pilot project with SpellBound.

 

Lobby of C.S. Mott Children's Hospital  Image Credit: HKS Inc.

 

As we waited for our meeting time to roll around, we became very acutely aware of a group of about 15 dark suits approaching us. Based on my experience in children's hospitals, dark suits typically mean medical students or administrators. And these particular suits were worn by very smart looking young men and women who were being led by a slightly older woman. Her steps were sure. Her long dark hair was pulled back as a matter of utility, and her hands were casually tucked into her distinct, white lab coat, marked with the University of Michigan Health System logo.  I shared my guess with Christina that we were witnessing medical students on tour as part of their interview process for residency match.

As the lab coat stopped in front of us, the group of suits efficiently fell into place around her with an affect of mechanical routine ensuring that each individual could clearly hear the words of their guide. We made ourselves comfortable in our arm chairs and tuned our ears to hear her open with, "We are now in the children's hospital..."

And then my ears caught a very different sound...

It was a sound of passion and hope. It was the sound of Disney. 

I bolted upright out of my seat, grabbed my bag, and ran (I mean, used my "quick walking feet") towards the Family Center. Poor Christina hardly had a chance to hear me say: "They are singing Frozen! Let's go!"

After a recent Facebook post from C.S. Mott Children's Hospital that has gotten over 730K views, I knew that the Music, Theatre, and Dance students from the University of Michigan were in the Family Center just off the main lobby- and they were singing for an audience of the most incredible, Little Victors.

 
 

We made it into the Family Center just in time to watch Christina Maxwell and her friends finish performing, "Love is an Open Door" from Disney's Frozen and to hear one of Mott's Little Victors talk about her favorite Disney princess super heros - Jasmine, Cinderella, and others.

She was a tiny sprite of a girl - maybe 4 or 5 years old. Her voice full of energy, but her body weak. She sat in a large wheelchair, padded with extra blankets into which she nestled her weight. Her dad squatted on the floor next to her clarifying her declaration that she is a super hero princess when the students inquired more about her Disney favorites. Dad was tired too, and you could see on his face how the attention from these students simultaneously provided a reprieve for him and joy for his daughter.

There were other families in the Center - another girl with long, curly blonde hair who's favorite movie is "Beauty and the Beast." She gasped with surprise when one of the university students invited the room to imagine that she was in fact a teapot - and opened her performance with the lyrics: "Tale as old as time..."

It was a moment of magic - for everyone in the Family Center. For parents, patients, and me.

My own daughter was diagnosed with leukemia 5 years ago, at the age of 4 months. I know what it means to have someone invest their time to bring music into the hospital. My own favorite was the classical guitarist who would sit in a chair in the hallway of the pediatric oncology unit. We couldn't come out of the room, but he found a way to bring the music to us.

As I stood in the Family Center reflecting on my time as a caregiver and watching these students bring a moment of joy to these families, JJ walked into the Center and it was time for us to get to work.

Time to bring another perspective, another moment of joy to these families. 

We can't change the reality that these families face. But we can alter their experience. We can bring a moment of joy through augmented reality of children's books.

I couldn't ask for a better mission.