Article written by Nicole Ryan, a first-year participant who plays for Boston Children's Hospital.
Extra Life speaks to my heart on several levels.
The main reason I signed up this year is because of my son, Jacob. The little boy he is now is such a different child to who he was in early 2016.
I do not know that we could have gotten him safely along without the loving care of Boston Children's Hospital.
Jacob is a 7-year-old boy in second grade who loves his service poodle, trains, bridges, tunnels and his iPad. He is funny, loving, curious, open-hearted, caring, sweet, sassy, challenging. He also happens to be autistic.
Early 2016 was a strange time for our family because our formerly cheerful and sweet boy had suddenly turned anything but. Outbursts were a daily thing in our home, some of them violent, some of them deeply scary. The pain he must have felt is beyond what I can imagine, and left him banging his head and lashing out as those he very truly loved. This was not how he wanted to be, or how anyone would ever want to be, but as his mom I had no idea who to call or what to do.
A day came where he had such violent episodes that I called 911. There was no way his father and I could safely transport him on our own to an emergency room. We needed help. I did not even think twice when I climbed into the ambulance with him. I asked for Boston Children's Hospital. I knew they could help, and they did.
Mental health issues and mental illness, especially in children, is something that is danced around and shied away from. It is a topic that needs to be discussed. When we got to BCH, we were received with respect and care. They wanted to see my son safely looked after, too.
The team at BCH carefully discussed options with us, ruled out physical illnesses, involved every appropriate service that could help him and guide with compassion and clarity. My son, just 5 years old, needed psychiatric hospitalization. They stood by and found a bed for him in an appropriate unit elsewhere and made sure that as his parents, we understood what this would mean and what to expect.
They prepared us for the worst while working for the best. Jacob spent two weeks in a pediatric psychiatric unit specializing in working with children with cognitive disorders like autism. He was diagnosed with a co-morbid condition called disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (DMDD). Treatment began and continued when he came home. It was like seeing my son anew all over again when he came home. His smile returned. His loving nature shone like a star. He found his words again and has had ever so much to tell us since.
He found the bond with his service poodle Blossom and realized how unbreakable it is. He is happy, gregarious, challenging and most of all content in his own skin. Where we would be today if BCH's ER staff had not cared; had not been so thorough and patient with us, I have no idea.
There aren't enough words to express the gratitude I have for the help we received. I'm looking forward to fundraising over the next year to help hospitals like this continue to help families like mine and kids like Jacob.