Patients, families and staff at Seattle Children’s Hospital surprised Russell and Ashton Wilson with a very special gift this week to say thank you for all they do for the hospital. We wanted to share with you the story behind our “thank you.”
Every Tuesday at Seattle Children’s Hospital something miraculous happens. Walk through the halls adorned with woodland creatures and colorful murals and you will see a common, unexpected theme emerge among patients, families and staff – the color blue.
Blue Friday may be the day Seattle’s 12th man showcases their Seattle Seahawk pride, but at Children’s, every Tuesday is Blue Tuesday.
Taking time for the kids
On Tuesday of every week, Seahawk’s star quarterback Russell Wilson and his wife, Ashton Wilson, take time out of their busy schedules to visit sick kids at Children’s. It’s the brightest and bluest day of the week for patients, families and staff.
“He’s just an all-around good guy, and they’re an all-around amazing couple,” said Douglas Taliaferro, equipment coordinator at Children’s, who escorts the Wilsons around the hospital every Tuesday. “Kids know Russell is real, sincere and honest. He is truly one of a kind.”
And it’s true. To kids at Children’s, Wilson is one of a kind. He’s their hero, not only for his incredible skill on the football field, but also for his compassion off the field.
Unexpected encounters with Russell
When Deborah and Kaden Mendoza ran into Russell and Ashton in the hallway at Children’s one random Tuesday, they were star-struck. They had just come from an appointment at Children’s Heart Center and were headed home when Kaden literally stopped in his tracks and came face-to-face with his hero. For Kaden, who has been a patient at Children’s nearly his entire life and has walked the halls of Children’s countless times; the chance encounter was one he will never forget.
“I’ve never seen Kaden so happy,” said his mother Deborah. “With everything he’s gone through and continues to go through, meeting Russell meant the world to him. It’s hard to put into words, but just thinking about it makes me want to cry.”
For Kaden, who has undergone three open heart surgeries at Children’s and visits the hospital regularly for check ups at the Heart Center, he could only think about Russell, his hero. That Tuesday, he forgot about his deteriorating heart and the struggle he’s been facing.
“He could not stop talking about Russell. The whole way home he held Russell’s autographed picture and couldn’t stop looking at it,” said Deborah. “The experience was priceless.”
But memorable moments like this aren’t rare. Thanks to Russell and Ashton, the hospital is filled with excitement and smiles every Tuesday.
Children’s littlest Seahawk fan
Little Abigail Sayers is 6 months old. Born at only 24 weeks, Abigail has been through a lot in her short life – a surgery within one hour of arriving at Children’s, multiple code calls in which her heart stopped and countless stressful nights for her mom and dad.
Brought to Children’s on Oct. 3, 2013, she faces a host of complications from being born prematurely, and the stress to her family has been overwhelming. But Abigail is strong and so is her family.
When Gail VanAlstyne, a registered nurse in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU), first met the Sayers family she knew she had to help alleviate some of the family’s stress.
“I put myself in their shoes, and I treated their daughter as my own,” said VanAlstyne. “I wanted to do something that meant something more to the family.”
And that something more started with two colors of nail polish – green and blue – two colors Abigail’s dad picked out for his precious little girl.
“When I opened my nail polish kit I thought it was funny that he picked out those two colors specifically, but then we learned he was a huge Seahawks fan,” said VanAlstyne.
What started as a simple manicure and pedicure in the PICU didn’t stop there. Abigail’s Seahawk spirit kept growing and growing. Thanks to her dad’s Seahawks inspiration, the care team and family went above and beyond to create Abigail’s very own Hawks Nest, complete with handmade blue and green syringe pom poms made by VanAlstyne.
It was only fitting that when Russell and Ashton Wilson came to visit the hospital on Tuesday, Nov. 12, VanAlstyne made sure they stopped by Abigail’s room. They had to visit their littlest fan, dressed head to toe in Seahawks gear – from her headband to her booties.
“Every Tuesday Abigail’s dad would wear his Seahawks jersey in hopes he would get a chance to meet Russell,” said VanAlstyne.
And on Nov. 12, he got his chance.
— Russell Wilson (@DangeRussWilson) November 12, 2013
“Meeting Russell and Ashton was amazing,” said Melinda Sayers. “My husband was star-struck and I couldn’t help but cry. They are such humble, selfless people. We have no choice but to be their biggest fans.”
One day, Abigail will be beside her parents cheering on the Seahawks and Russell Wilson, but until that day comes, she’s cradled in a one-of-a-kind Hawk’s Nest, under the quote, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
When thank you doesn’t seem like enough
Heroes come in all shapes and sizes, but for children and staff at the hospital, two of their favorite heroes come in the form of one truly amazing couple, the Wilsons. Because every Tuesday little miracles happen at the hospital, children smile and families feel hopeful.
The only thing left to do, is say thank you!
But for patients, families and staff, thank you, just didn’t seem to cut it. They wanted to say it in their own special way.
From Children’s to the Wilsons, thank you for touching the lives of so many kids every Tuesday. Go Hawks!