Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Reconnection: A Tale With A Twist for Child Life Month at All Children's Hospital

Twenty-four years ago, Carla Householder was a frightened, 13-year-old patient at All Children's Hospital, getting ready to have a biopsy performed on a spinal tumor.

Kristin Maier was working as a young specialist in the Child Life Department she now runs at All Children’s.

The two instantly bonded, and their friendship deepened as Carla was soon diagnosed with cancer. She underwent a series of three difficult surgeries, followed by grueling chemotherapy treatment over the next four years.

They talked endlessly, as Kristin encouraged Carla to stay strong and keep fighting.

They made each other laugh with their similarly playful styles – like the day Carla surprised everyone by tossing off her wig with a grin because it made her head too darn hot.

They cried together during the hard times, when uncertainty weighed on Carla’s mind, or when she learned that she likely would never be able to have a baby due to the harsh effects of the cancer and surgeries. And they cried again when Carla finally beat the cancer and parted ways with her dear pal from Child Life.

Once or twice over the years, their paths crossed. But for the most part, they moved on with their own busy lives as one decade rolled into the next.

Then, last  Friday, Kristin was walking in a hallway near the patient transfer elevators, reading an email on her cellphone.

It was a moment that could just as easily have slipped into the mundane flow of the day. But at the very same instant, a hospital visitor named Rhonda Householder happened to catch a glimpse of the familiar woman from Child Life who had once been such a godsend to her daughter, Carla.

“Kristin, is that you?!” Rhonda called out. Kristin recognized the voice and beamed as she saw Rhonda approaching her. They shared a warm embrace but there was no time for small talk. Rhonda grabbed Kristin’s hand and led her around the corner. There, sitting in a wheelchair – eight months into a pregnancy that was not supposed to be possible – Carla looked up in disbelief.

 “She saw Kristin and just started bawling,” Rhonda recalled. “And then all three of us were bawling.”

Carla had begun to have problems late in her pregnancy and was on her way to Bayfront Baby Place, housed on the third floor of All Children’s, to be induced a month early. The fears she’d felt only seconds earlier disappeared amid the glow of an improbable reunion, created by a simple twist of fate.

"Amazing," Maier reflected.

“How unbelievable that I would run into her on that day, at that moment,” Carla added. “When I saw her, it made me feel like everything was going to be okay.”

And, indeed, it was. On Monday, Carla gave birth to a healthy, beautiful baby girl named Isabelle. Kristin, of course, couldn’t wait to visit her former patient and infant daughter – two lives reconnected by a new one on just another day inside All Children’s.


Child Life Director Kristin Maier, day old Isabelle and new mom Carla Householder.

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