When 2020 arrived, no one could have guessed how many challenges the world would be facing in such a short period of time. Medically-fragile and immunocompromised children felt the impact of the global pandemic in a big way. They were forced to stay in the safety of their own homes – which meant losing access to the outside world, often placing more strain on family dynamics. At Spark, there are so many wonderful families who have turned adversity into resiliency. These families have found ways to shine through the dark clouds.
Nurses have begun to share their pandemic stories in Canada, and around the world.
One touching story in particular demonstrates the value of care, and the importance of companionship between human beings and animals. This story explores the unique bond between a boy, a bird, and a nurse.
A young boy by the name of MJ experiences the world differently than the average person. MJ was diagnosed with a severe form of epilepsy called Dravet Syndrome at a young age. He has battled this alongside other conditions his entire life. As a result, MJ needs help with his day-to-day activities. Relying on his primary senses, he uses sound, touch, and motion to explore the world around him. He communicates with facial expressions and has a laugh of gold. Even on a rainy day, MJ is the type of boy who will always bring a smile to your face.
When schools shut down during the first provincial lockdown, MJ’s sensory experience became very limited. With these challenges, the Spark team had to get creative in how it would offer care. Every staff and caregiver started to brainstorm ways to keep clients stimulated, and happy while under strict stay-at-home orders.
Spark’s first-ever nurse, Dawn, knew that the team couldn’t let MJ down. With her razor-sharp instincts, Dawn is the type of intuitive nurse who always seems to know what to do in challenging situations. She has been working with Spark for the last couple of years, echoing the true definition of its’ core values.
Dawn’s bond with MJ is exactly what has been needed to fight the pandemic blues. No task is done without a song or a smile. Sensory activities like lava lamps, goo, and moon sand make the days go by faster when Nurse Dawn is in charge of activities.
The extra time created by lockdowns and restrictions allowed for MJ and his nursing team to take full advantage of exploring nature. It became a huge inspiration to all. One of MJ’s favourite activities is to go to the pond nearby and feed the ducks. Together, MJ and his nursing team began to make this a daily focus; to connect with nature as much as possible. Out of inspiration, MJ started to grow his own plants and put out bird feeders. When it was time to hunker down for feeding time, MJ would watch closely through the window, waiting for a chirping friend to stop by for a snack.
With all of this earthly influence, the idea of getting a pet started to float within the household. And after much debate, a decision was made.
Yoshi arrived shortly after, a three month old budgie with plenty of attitude! It didn’t take long for him to settle in and feel at home. It was also very clear that Yoshi chose MJ as his best friend. And now the two are practically inseparable. Yoshi accompanies MJ to his virtual classes, as well as during nap time, feeding time… and pretty much any other time he feels like it.
Oh! And Yoshi loves to chirp along to music, especially the nature channel. He is an expert at playing bingo, and even makes his own paintings! Not your average budgie! This little bird fits perfectly on top of MJ’s wheelchair. No matter what MJ does, he always has his little friend with him to sing him songs, and make the day a little brighter.
When times are tough, medically-fragile children are tougher. With a supportive team of nurses, a loving family, and true companionship, MJ’s pandemic journey turned out to be one of strength, resiliency, and hope. A young, inspiring soul, accompanied by his cheerful, friendly companion and a very caring nurse remind us that we are all in this together, every step of the way.