My family participates in the CHD support group at Medical City Children’s Hospital, called Amazing Little Hearts. Our group meets each month to share stories, hear doctors and others speak about CHD topics, fellowship, and support each other. Occasionally, we have an outside group come and speak to us about programs or special opportunities for our families.
Not too long after Tucker went home from the hospital for the first time, we attended a meeting that had one of these special guests. Two sweet ladies came to speak to us about a new program that was beginning at the hospital. These ladies shared the story and inspiration behind the Beads of Courage program.
If you aren’t familiar with Beads of Courage, here is an excerpt from their website:”The Program is a resilience-based intervention designed to support and strengthen children and families coping with serious illness. Through the program children tell their story using colorful beads as meaningful symbols of courage that commemorate milestones they have achieved along their unique treatment path.” Basically, kids earn beads for each test, surgery, procedure, needle stick, treatment, etc. and the beads are strung on a necklace for the child to wear as a testament to their courage and resilience.
Beads of Courage supports kids with cancer and blood disorders, cardiac conditions, burn injuries, Neonatal ICU stays, and other chronic illnesses. Each of these conditions has its own specific program guide that fits the treatment cycle of the condition. Beads of Courage is now in over 140 different children’s hospitals in the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Japan, and the United Kingdom. Over 30,000 children are benefiting from this amazing program, with more being added each day.
Since Tucker is only 3 years old, he doesn’t really understand his beads yet, but he definitely loves them and likes to look at them. The older kids in our support group do understand the beads and know that they represent needle sticks, procedures, and the pain that is associated with CHD. Despite the fact that the beads represent “bad” things, the kids love them and wear them like a badge of honor. They know that they earned those beads with their bravery.
Our kids go through so much in their fight with CHD, it is important to reward them when the days are tough. Beads of Courage is a perfect way to provide hope and comfort, even when it seems like the fight is just beginning. The beads also provide a tangible way for each child or family to their story.
Behind the program is a large group of donors and artisans who make the beads possible. Donors and organizations provide the funds to operate the program at local hospitals. There are scores of special beads that are made by skilled glass artisans. These special beads represent major milestones in a child’s treatment and are especially treasured items. If your hospital doesn’t already have a Beads of Courage program, you can contact them through their website, http://www.beadsofcourage.org/, to find out how to get one started.
Just like Beads of Courage, Whole Hearts Foundation is trying to bring hope to the courageous kids and families battling against congenital heart defects. Our mission is to provide education, support, connections, and innovation to our families. Also, like Beads of Courage, Whole Hearts relies on the generosity of others to be able to reach these families. You can make a tax-deductible donation to Whole Hearts by going to http://www.wholehearts.org/HowtoDonate.aspx.
Each of Tucker’s beads tells a story. They tell a story of pain, surgery, and a broken heart, but they also tell a story of triumph, courage, hope! What is your child’s story? We would love to share it with the Whole Hearts family!
Director of Local Support
Whole Hearts Foundation