By Scott Newport
This story is about a family. A family with a sick child.
The family I’m talking about is my own. I’m Scott, otherwise known as “Dad.” It all began on a Saturday afternoon last year when my wife, Penni, suggested it might be nice if I took our oldest son, Noah, out to the wood shop to work on something together. It was a good idea, and Noah was excited to have some alone time with Dad. (Not always an option when your younger brother has a terminal illness.)
In the shop, Noah flipped the torn pages of a craft book and stopped when he got to a worn page that showed a small wooden toy, a hopping rabbit. Since we often can’t afford to buy wood, I usually have scraps lying around the shop. I suggested we make the rabbit’s body out of a piece of maple from a broken pallet I discovered at the back of a warehouse. The rear wheels we decided to make from wood I scavenged when the School Craft College removed and discarded an old hand rail. A closet pole that once organized the clothes of a small child was the perfect diameter for the front wheels. The rest of the materials needed to complete the project kinda just fell into place as we needed them. Hmmm, that seems to be the way our life is.
The next morning I got up before Noah and peeked in our little rabbit. As I flipped on the wood shop light, our little wooden rabbit looked back at me cheerfully. I gently checked to make sure all his glued bits and parts had completely dried. He was perfect! Later, Noah helped me rub wax on his axels and tie a colorful string below his chin so we could pull him across the floor. Our hopping rabbit project was a success. We all laughed and smiled as Noah showed off his project with accomplishment shining in his eyes.
A few months after Noah and I created our rabbit friend from scraps in the wood shop, I was driving home from a board meeting. In my mind, I kept replaying one particular comment that had been made at the table that day, cringing every time I thought about it. The comment that made me cringe had been my own. As soon as I spoke, I regretted it and began to apologize. And what response did I get? “Hey Scott,” the other member said, “don’t worry about it. I am so excited we can put our thoughts together to make Mott a better place for families, families like yours.”
I lay in bed that night, still in awe about that response. I wasn’t sure how that member was able to turn my negative comment into a positive idea. When I awoke at 3:00 a.m., I was still thinking about the incident. And then an idea came to me. Believe it or not, the idea hopped right up to me in my dark bedroom, taking the shape of a merry little wooden rabbit. Just like the one in my wood shop.
The next week I was scheduled to come to the hospital for another PFAC meeting. This would be a great opportunity to share my idea with the group. I was told I could have five minutes at the beginning of the meeting to share my thoughts.
As everyone found their seats, I pointed to a large poster board with a hand sketch of our rabbit. I told the board members a bit about him and then announced that the little rabbit, my friend, was with us that day. I lifted him out of a small paper bag and started to pull him around the room.
“Wow,” someone said.
“How cute,” I heard from the back of the room.
“I love it.”
I picked up the rabbit and told everyone to remember how seeing a little wooden bunny weeble-wobble around the room had made them smile. And then I said, “Believe it or not, this little guy has a lot to do with PFCC. You see, this rabbit it made out of different types of wood gathered from different parts of our community.” I explained that our PFCC group is made out of different folks from different departments at Mott.
Continuing, I said, “Now remember that smile you had on your face when I pulled the rabbit around the room. This rabbit is a symbol of our team working together. The smile you had on your face is the smile we want patients and families to have when they see us all working together. Working together on their behalf.”
I explained that the rabbit’s string was his most important part. “I didn’t push the rabbit around the room,” I explained. “I pulled him. You see, no one wants to be pushed into doing something. But we can all agree that people are sometimes willing to be pulled. So let’s say the string represents passion, a passion we all share for our mission.”
I truly believe that passion for patients and families can tie us together as we work to bring smiles to Mott’s patients and families. Just like the smile that the board members had on their faces when I pulled ‘Hop’ around the room.
Yes, that’s the rabbit’s name. Right there in the board room, I took out a marker and wrote the word HOP across the rabbit’s body. I told the group that the letters represented the essence of patient family centered care: Helping Our Patients.
I added, “We need to be committed to this and do it everyday.” And thus the bunny’s name changed from HOP to HOPE for “Helping Our Patients Everyday.”
I ended my five minutes by telling the group that as a parent of an ill child, I think the most disabling emotion while visiting a hospital is fear. The only thing that can truly crush fear in all situations is HOPE. Holding my little wooden friend, I said, “We all need to work together, no matter where we work in the hospital. We need to let passion for children and families tie us together so we can bring smiles to the faces of patients and families when they visit Mott. When we do this, we take the fear away and give HOPE. Hope that they are in one of the finest hospitals in the world.”
About Scott Newport
Scott Newport is a volunteer with C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital’s Patient and Family Centered Care advisory council. Scott lives in Michigan with his wife, Penni and his three children: Chelsea, Noah, and angel Evan. He’s also a carpenter who has a vision for unwanted, damaged wood. Each discovery he makes unfolds into a beautiful piece of furniture for which he finds a home, usually with a child or caregiver of a child with special needs.
Scott’s son Evan spent the first 252 days of his life in the hospital. Initially given a life expectancy of two years, Evan walked at the age of three and learned to ride a bike at seven. Scott and his family credit all of Evan’s success to the help of hundreds of caring people involved in his care.