The small train sat motionless on the tracks. The basketball hoop, standing shorter than most, kept vigil over an empty court. The karaoke machine, silent. All have been sterilized per protocol and kept in neat order. These and other toys and games housed in The Landing, The Dragonfly Foundation’s patient/family space, are taken care of in much the same manner: clean, orderly, waiting...
A family walked in. While the mother made conversation with the staff on hand, the kids made a mad dash to the play areas that enticed them the most, and a room once full of inanimate objects and dormant possibilities was now teeming with youthful exuberance and imaginative realities.
More importantly than the toys, playrooms and activity spaces are the young patients and their family members that help motivate an organization whose mission is them.
Not every place is as comfortable and enjoyable as Dragonfly. Hospitals do what they can, but at the end of the day, they are still hospitals. They are focused on finding cures and remedies. For kids and young adults suffering from cancer or recovering from bone marrow transplant procedures, the confinement and isolation within hospital walls can be stifling, repressing the spirit that makes youth so powerful. Dragonfly’s mission is to give life a place and means to flourish; where a young patient (and their families) can, on a bad day, simply exist among friends, free from curious stares and whispers, away from rooms where painful procedures and disheartening diagnoses take place, and on a good day, hopefully, trade in the hand they were dealt for some joy, some happiness, some laughs and some smiles.
Weekly events, gifts, entertainment, support and community connections ease the mind, allay fears, and minimize emotional trauma – that’s what Dragonfly provides, and the assistance they offer patients and their families extends beyond The Landing, beyond Cincinnati. When the Gift1 by Powernet tablet donation team met with Dragonfly, the possibilities and benefits for Dragonflies and their families quickly became apparent. The tablets could serve as a means of communication and entertainment at The Landing and the hospital or doctor’s office, or even from the patient’s home.
Since the partnership was formed in the spring of 2014, Gift1 has donated more than a dozen tablets to Dragonfly. Some of the devices are kept at the Landing, others are gifted to patients, many of whom are facing long hospital stays away from family and friends.
Joanne and her family received one of those tablets. Her son, who was one of the three children we met at the beginning of this story, is battling cancer, and the tablet has helped him immensely.
“We were taking a lot of pictures with it at first,” Joanne said. “When we were at the hospital it was fun to document through pictures what was going on and then we could better explain to people what was happening.”
For a family with three kids, the tablet has been a window into youth, capturing moments Joanne says she’ll hold onto for a long time.
“They just record themselves being silly; I think it’s just fun. They take pictures without me knowing and I think, ‘I’m going to keep this and put it on an embarrassing video when you graduate,” she laughed.
For her son, specifically, the tablet did a lot more.
Joanne continued: “As long as we download whatever he’s interested in, it helps with boredom, definitely. If everything fails – there’s no TV or reception in the [hospital] room, this is a lifesaver. We even rearranged the bed in a way so he could plug it in.
“Anything we can have to relieve that boredom. They can give you all the movies you want, but that day, that kid who’s suffering wants to watch this movie, and you can get it on the tablet. Sometimes that’s the difference between being totally in pain and ‘oh wow, I can get through this.’
“Anything to get your mind off the pain and off being in the hospital. That’s the big thing.”
That is the big thing. That’s what Dragonfly does, and what Gift1 helping them do. If we can help set the sorrow, the pain and the uncertainty aside, if only for a minute, then we can bring a little more life to the room and bring a little more spirit to the fight. As long as there’s life and spirit, comfort and joy, family and friends, there’s no reason to give up. That’s what they’re fighting for. That’s what we’re all fighting for. And we’ll never give up.