Ah, the power of a cool little bandage.
It could make or break a chemotherapy appointment for 4-year-old Cambri Jewell.
Use a pretty, sparkly bandage and she will forget a moment that someone just accessed her port to give her medicine or draw blood.
That’s why her parents decided to celebrate Cambri’s last day of chemo by leading a drive to supply Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital with a huge assortment of kid-friendly bandages.
They collected more than 21,000 bandages, enough to meet kids’ needs at the hospital for a year.
Pink, blue, yellow, green, red and purple―the bandages come in all colors of the rainbow. They sport Care Bears and Barbie dolls. Tonka trucks and superheroes. Pink camo and Candy Crush. Stars. Owls. Sparkles. Scooby-Doo. Shrek. Safari patterns and bold neons.
The Jewells hope the bandages will help young patients smile. And they see the gift as a small way to say “thank you” to the medical staff members who have cared for Cambri as she battled leukemia.
“They’ve given so much to us. We know every single nurse and they all know us,” said Cambri’s mom, Heidi Jewell. “It feels like family there.”
The success of their bandage drive far exceeded her expectations.
“I thought we’d get maybe 1,000,” she said. “I was just thrilled. I couldn’t believe it.”
For Heidi and Ben Jewell, of Hudsonville, Michigan, the world changed dramatically in January 2014.
Their daughter, Cambri, just 2½ years old, developed a fever that lasted a few days. After a visit to their pediatrician and bloodwork, they got the news they dreaded: Cambri had leukemia.
“It was absolutely terrifying,” Heidi said. “I kept asking my husband, ‘Is this really happening? Is she going to live or is she going to die?’ I didn’t know anything about this disease.”
Further tests showed Cambri had a form of acute lymphoblastic leukemia that has a 90 percent remission rate. She began a course of chemotherapy treatments that lasted nearly 2½ years.
Cambri adapted with the resilience of a toddler. She mastered swallowing pills. She got used to chemo infusions at the hospital.
“I think she thinks everyone takes chemo,” Heidi said. “It’s not that big a deal for her.”
And the right little bandage could make her smile. She likes the “girly stuff”―sparkles and princesses. At one of her last treatments, only Bugs Bunny bandages were available. Being unfamiliar with Bugs, she was unimpressed.
As Cambri neared the end of chemo treatments, her parents decided to help the hospital expand its bandage options. They started the drive as a kind of chemo graduation gift, collecting donations of money and bandages.
Kelloggsville High School, where Heidi teaches, pitched in. So did Cambri’s school, Learning Ship Christian Preschool, and Bauer Elementary, where her brothers attend.
The family bought only latex-free and medication-free bandages, as required by the hospital.
Cambri helped pick them out.
“She was very excited,” Heidi said.
When they tallied up the donations, Cambri’s big brothers, 12-year-old Carter and 10-year-old Caden, built a fort from the boxes. Cambri stood inside and posed for a photo.
When Cambri went to Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital for her last chemo treatment this spring, her parents brought the bandages—21,350 in all.
Child Life specialist Audra Holst said the supply will last the hospital for more than a year. She stocked treatment rooms on the ninth and 10th floors with a colorful array of bandage options.
With that selection, “we can always find ones the kids love,” she said.
Cambri reaped the benefits recently when she returned for a checkup. Before she had blood drawn, Holst helped her pick out a bandage.
She opened a cupboard stocked with colorful boxes and asked Cambri what she wanted. Sparkles? Barbie?
“Owls,” Cambri said.
As Holst and Cambri played a princess game on a computer tablet, phlebotomist Ashley Sands made the poke. Soon, Cambri smiled down at a yellow bandage with two cheerful owls on her right arm.
That’s the goal, Sands said. When kids have to get their blood drawn, she tries to make sure they are in good spirits before she leaves the room. And having a wide selection of fun bandages makes that easier.
“I love it,” she said. “It really helps.”