OUR PERSONAL JOURNEY... or
WHY WE #GIVEASHEET
By Karletta Marie @The Daily Inspired Life
When her young son is diagnosed with cancer, Ya-el prepares him for the fight of his life. Little did she know that a trip to Walmart would birth an innovative idea that would bring joy to thousands battling childhood cancer across the globe
Upon hearing the words: "Your son has cancer". My world shattered.
My husband and I were sitting in a small hospital room after a long night of scans and other exams. We knew something was off by watching the doctors' faces - but we weren't ready for this diagnosis. It felt like someone had punched me in the stomach. How could this be? Treatment began immediately. My three-and-a-half-year-old son lay flat on his back. His tiny, peanut size body morphed by the huge hospital bed, a white canvas of coldness. His arms hung limp by his side, he lay helpless, hooked up to machines with wires attached to his body.
He’d endured his first round of chemotherapy.
I took a deep breath.
How much more could I take? I was completely broken. I, myself, a two-time cancer survivor, had only been given the clear of cervical cancer two months prior. I had fought and won. But now, my dear sweet son. I knew what was coming. He’d lose weight, he’d lose his hair, he would be dealing with isolation. He wouldn’t understand. I could be here for him, but I couldn’t fight for him. You’ll have to be strong and fight my dear son. I had fought and won. But now, my dear sweet son. I knew what was coming... Tears welled up in my eyes. I needed to get out of the hospital room. I needed a breather, a moment to fix my head before I returned to face the biggest fight of my life. I rushed out of the hospital, jumped in the car and drove, until I came to Walmart.
I walked the isles of Walmart, my mind racing, I was preparing to reset, to start a new fight. It was time to re-organise my mind and life to fit the new reality we were facing. I started picking up toys and items that I thought would bring a sense of home to my son’s hospital room. Up and down the isles I walked. Until I came to the isle of bed-sheets. I stopped. My mind flashed to the image of my little boy sitting in his hospital room. I picked up two sets of sheets with his favorite characters - Star Wars and Spongebob. I headed to the checkout with renewed energy. I was on my way back to the hospital with Luke Skywalker on hand, ready to destroy the death-star. I was on my way back to the hospital with Luke Skywalker on hand, ready to destroy the death-star. With the hospital’s permission, I ripped off the white sheets on my son’s bed and replaced them with his new sheets that felt more like home. Wow! The smile on my son’s face when he saw his favorite characters. It was as if Lukeskywalker and Spongebob with his mates had shown up as his own battle team.
Others in the hospital also noticed the difference ...
Sick children in hospital are scared, they want to go home. They don’t want to be prodded and poked by strangers or asked a lot of questions they don’t understand. Nurses and doctors commented on how much easier the sheets made their job, helping them to communicate with the children. Breaking the ice. “Oh, how is Spongebob today?” or “Oh, so I see you like Star Wars”. The sheets helped the hospital staff get their job done so much more easily and happily. Then there was the sick little girl I’ll never forget. She was about five years old at the time. As she passed my son’s hospital room, she spotted his Spongebob sheets. She stopped, looking at me hopeful, “Where do you get those sheets?”
“We brought these sheets from home sweetie.” I answered, feeling sad that she didn’t have a set of her own. As she walked back to her room, I thought to myself. That little girl should have some nice sheets too. All the children in hospital should have a set of sheets from home.
And so, the idea for the “Sheets from Home” charity was birthed.
My husband and I promised ourselves that once we could - we would help other families who are fighting childhood cancer. In 2011 our dream came true. After eighteen months of fighting a courageous battle beating childhood cancer, we were ready to help others. A dear friend gave us a head-start with a big surprise. He put on a party and asked everyone to bring new sheet-sets for children! “Sheets From Home” was launched.
We started collecting sheets and donating them to the hospitals where my son was treated. In 2015 “Sheets From Home” became an official non-profit charity and began expansion across the country. Since then, my work with Sheets from Home has become my full-time passion. I’ve seen the difference Sheets from Home makes to sick children struggling in hospital. Some hospitals give children a set of Sheets from Home after a special procedure – when they really need a boost. Other hospitals will host a “sheets party”, where they bring the sheets into the room on a wagon for the children to choose from. Out of respect for privacy, we usually drop the sheets directly to the hospital child-life specialist. But on one memorable occasion I was invited to a ‘sheets party’ where I experienced the joy first-hand.
As the wagon of “Sheets from Home” rattled toward the ward, I stood back and watched. The wheels came to a halt, the children’s eyes lit up, they moved forward, curious, excited to pick out their own set of sheets. One child stood out to me. He was about my sons age. He rushed forward and picked out a set of superhero sheets. He looked up to his mother, beaming with happiness, his face brighter than it was just minutes prior.
His mother turned and looked at me with eyes only a mother who has had a child with cancer can know, “This is the happiest and the most active he’s been in a while. Thank you so much.” That was a special moment and I tear up thinking about it. These moments show me, that all the efforts of “Sheets from Home” is worthwhile. These children keep my mission alive.