Sammie has the charimsa to be a movie star.
Once every six weeks, a small bright light moves through the corridors of Sinai Hospital, and throughout the building, security guards and admissions staff, nurses and physicians stop what they’re doing to talk to a 7-year-old child. When Sammie Cohen comes to Sinai, everyone is delighted to see her.
If you spent just two minutes with her, you would understand. She is a child with a serious illness; but her illness does not define her and it cannot subdue her effervescence.
Sammie has sickle cell anemia, a genetic blood disorder for which there is an effective
treatment, but no cure. Since she was an infant, she has come regularly to Sinai for the blood transfusions that allow her to live a normal life.
It is a painful process, but Kelleye Cohen, Sammie’s mother, says her daughter’s bright, ebullient personality has not been changed: “She remains the happiest child on earth and brings sunshine to everyone she encounters.”
Kelleye speaks of her daughter’s courage and of the staff that makes her feel special each time she comes to the hospital: “Without the special care, I don’t know where we would be, especially because we relocated to Baltimore from New Jersey when she was 4 months old and we didn’t know anyone in the area. When I came here, I developed really close relationships with the nurses and the doctors. The nurses call us quite frequently at home. Whenever Sammie has a transfusion, they call that night or the next day to find out how she is doing and how I am doing. The nurses are very understanding and sympathetic.”
There is nothing routine about Sammie’s condition. Kelleye says she will continue to require close monitoring.
“I hope that she will be cured. If not, we will go one day at a time. I’ll be here. The nurses will be here. The doctors will be here. The family will be here. She knows that she has that support, and that will make a big difference in Sammie’s life,” says Kelleye.
At Sinai we envelop children and families with warmth for many reasons. Many of us are parents ourselves. We know the deep ache of watching a child in pain. We know the cold fear when a child’s life is in jeopardy. We know that while love cannot save a child’s life, it can help sustain children in a terrible time. We provide this support not because it is our job, but because we cannot help responding to these children from the deepest parts of ourselves.