I’m always looking for fun stuff to do with the kids, especially if it’s free. If it’s free, then it’s for me! Mostly, though, I want my rugrats to have a good time and make memories in the process. Around this time of year, a neighborhood near ours usually holds an event called National Night Out, which is to promote crime prevention and safety in neighborhoods across the country. Of course it also has all the stuff 3 little boys would be crazy about: police cars and fire trucks!
Hudson was scoping out the laptop.
Just look at those 3 hoodlums. I’m surprised they didn’t get locked up that night.
It was a lot of fun. McGruff the Crime Dog was there, they gave away lots of goodies, there was free pizza, and even a police dog demonstration. The boys were having a lot of fun, even though it was like 139072390741907120 degrees outside. Just as I was getting ready to leave with them, my oldest said, “Dad, look!” and I looked over and saw him pointing at our very own Carolina Panthers’ mascot, Sir Purr.
This really made me smile because, c’mon…who doesn’t like mascots? But even more importantly it brought me back to a moment in time that will always hold a special place in my heart. Waaaaaay back in the beginning of this blog, I told the story of the day after Nolan’s Norwood Procedure (you can read it here). As we were leaving the hospital to get a fresh change of clothes, the Panthers just so happened to be holding a Christmas party for the kids and families. I was in no mood, but got dragged in anyway. We were treated with SUCH kindness by everyone on staff, I will never forget it. We even got to make special Christmas ornaments for the kids (with the help of the players) and we still use them:
But I will also remember seeing Sir Purr there, and how he ran around the room loving on kids, making them smile, and hearing all the laughter. I saw him entertained little kids in wheelchairs and a little girl without any hair left on her head. And for the brief time we were in that room my spirits were lifted by watching Sir Purr in all his glory. It also reminded me that there will always be a great deal of kindness in this world, and that putting a smile on one person’s face can also put a smile on other peoples’ faces too.
So me and my sentimental self waited in line to meet Sir Purr. Hudson went up for a picture and a hug first and then Sir Purr walked up to the twins in their stroller, squatted down, and squeaked both of his squeaky paws for them. And they were both entranced…and then they started to laugh. And then Sir Purr got a high five from Nolan:
Wow. This was SO cool! It was like one moment I’m remembering 2 years ago, as Nolan was laying in a bed – chest open, fighting – and watching Sir Purr make kids smile…and here I am…later…watching Sir Purr make my Nolan smile. We’ve come a long way!
I’m sure Sir Purr meets tons and tons of kids, but I hope Sir Purr and the team know just how impactful he is when he goes out in to the community. Thanks, Sir Purr!
Ok, you’re probably thinking, “Here he goes talking about football one post after talking about his son’s surgery!” And yes, I’m gonna talk football, but not in the way you think. This was special.
Towards the tail end of Nolan’s first day at CVICU post-surgery, the staff at CVICU gave us a sleep room. This was AWESOME. It was a private room with a big bed and private bathroom, on the same floor but set away from everything. It was nice and peaceful and it was SO needed. We were wiped out and slept like rocks. If your hospital offers you sleep room, USE THEM. Seriously!
Anyways, the next morning, we went to check in on Nolan (he was status quo) before making the tough choice to leave him for awhile to go home and check on Grant and Hudson and get some fresh clothes and whatnot. We rode the elevator down to the lobby, still kinda in a fog from the day before. As soon as we stepped off the elevator, we were greeted by a bunch of Carolina Panthers Cheerleaders and staff. Don’t get ahead of yourself, this is not a “hurrr hurrr cheerleaders!” post; they were actually inviting us to a Christmas party the Panthers were throwing for patients and families. While that was cool, I politely declined, saying our son just had heart surgery yesterday. One of the cheerleaders asked how old he is and I said 8 days old. And then they all insisted we go in to the party. INSISTED. So we went. It felt kinda weird, actually…we didn’t have a kid with us and we were all ragged from the previous days. But I’ll tell you, the staff really went to a lot of effort to make us feel welcome. They were giving out toys to all the kids and they told us to pick out a toy for Hudson and to bring it home to him. It was so nice…and we needed that outpouring of love from complete strangers.
We got to see kids really enjoying Sir Purr, the mascot, and to see a few of these GINORMOUS football players trying to do Christmas crafts with the kids…it was hilarious. One behemoth of a man was trying to stuff tinsel into these tiny glass ornaments. It was the funniest thing I’d ever seen. There were kids there in wheelchairs and whatnot and they were having a ball…and that brought me joy. The players helped us make some ornaments for all 3 boys and even stockings for them too. To be honest, I can’t remember which players were there. It didn’t really matter, they were just so kind. Everyone showed genuine support for us.
And even better, it helped that one of their teammates – Greg Olsen – was going through the same thing as us. So when the players or staff would ask “Is it the same thing as Greg’s son?” we’d say yes and they would immediately understand. As we left the room so we could finally go home, the staff and cheerleaders said goodbye and that they’d be praying for us and Nolan. Wow. What a cool day that was. And what a blessing the Carolina Panthers were that day. I know football players and other professional athletes get a bad rap sometimes, but these guys were all class and meant the world to me that day. To this day the Panthers remain very involved with Levine Children’s Hospital: they frequently visit kids and bring gifts, and they absolutely model some incredible support for their community.
As we made the drive home to see our other kiddos, we talked excitedly about what just happened: we were blown away by the generosity and kindness of the Carolina Panthers!
So why on earth am I blogging about football in the middle of this blog? I mean I barely pay attention to football in general, much less the hometown Carolina Panthers. But one day I was surfing the interwebs at home and came across an article in the Charlotte Observer about Greg Olsen, whose wife was pregnant with twins, and how they found out one of their babies would be born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. WHAT?! How amazing is it that someone as notable as the tight end for the Panthers would be going through the exact same thing as I was? Greg’s twins were about 2 months ahead of ours, so I was going to see things unfold in someone else’s life before I had to go through the same experience myself. I give Greg Olsen and his wife Kara a lot of credit for doing that interview (and several more eventually). I wouldn’t blame that family one bit for keeping to themselves to try to cope with things, but they faced it head-on, and in the process became a voice for HLHS families across America…just like mine. Another good thing is that it goes to show that congenital heart defects – and HLHS – can occur in ANYONE. Rich, poor, athletic, lazy, you name it…it happens, and I promise you for Greg, finding out about an HLHS diagnosis was just as rough as it was for me.
I’d link you directly to the article I read, but the Charlotte Observer no longer has free online viewing of their paper, so here’s another great story and video from NFL.com: http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap1000000212281/article/greg-olsen-draws-inspiration-from-infant-sons-difficult-journey