Stacy Sedlack, BS, CCLS has worked as a child life specialist at St. Louis Children’s Hospital for the last six years. Originally from St. Louis, Stacy earned her degree in Human Development and Family Studies from the University of Missouri, Columbia. At Children’s, she works with sickle cell patients, those who have received liver and kidney transplants, and children on the dialysis/infusion and nephrology units. While many patients have had a lasting impact on her career, a little boy named Isaiah holds a special place in Stacy’s heart. Isaiah, who will be six in December, has struggled with renal issues throughout his life. He now receives dialysis – and checks-in with Stacy – three times a week.
I started at Children’s in 2006, and I met Isaiah not long after. Now, we’ve been friends for five-and-a-half years. He was an itty-bitty, couldn’t-sit-up-on-his-own baby when I first met him. Still, even as a little guy, his personality just shone. He was always a happy baby, and would always smile – and make you smile. If he wasn’t happy, you knew something was very seriously wrong.
In his short life, he’s gone through extensive treatment for renal issues, a kidney transplant, and now receives dialysis three times a week – so there have been times when I’ve seen him unhappy. When he was a toddler, he would kick and cry and not want to get on the machine. He was scared. So I would work with him. We did medical play. We made a baby doll, and he would mimic exactly what the nurses were doing on the baby doll. Once he got control, he would put his baby doll on dialysis. He had the control, so he was fine with it.
Giving children that sense of control in situations where they don’t have many options is part of what I love about our profession. We (child life specialists) are here to help kids cope and understand. And in the process, we build unique bonds with these families. I think when you’ve known a child as long as I’ve known Isaiah – I’ve seen him grow from a baby into a little person who will be six in December – you see them go through so much. It affects how you live your life. It makes me appreciate more.
There was one time when I was walking into work, and Isaiah was here for a clinic visit. All of a sudden, I hear, “STACY!!!” And this little peanut just bolted over to me, grabbed my legs and jumped into my arms.
As gratifying as those moments are, though, the moments when he doesn’t need me are even more rewarding. My goal for him is not that he relies on me, but that I can teach him positive ways to cope through challenges, move past them, and understand how to deal with them in a more positive way. Not long ago, he was preparing for dialysis, and I asked him, “Do you want your baby doll?” And he said, “No. I don’t need it anymore.” Now, he sits still and talks when he gets put on the machine. Dressing changes don’t bother him. That’s the payoff. That’s the benefit. That’s what’s rewarding. That, and the smile on his face.
He’s such a funny kid – so exuberant and full of life. I think a lot of adults could learn from him and kids who are like him, who have gone through so much in their young lives, and consistently have a smile on their face. He comes into that unit, and he just brightens the whole place. He can come in with a smile and just say the most silly, funny, wonderful, profound things for an almost six-year-old. Everybody is happy to see him, and that’s a gift. It’s a gift if you’re five; it’s a gift if you’re 50. That’s his gift to the world. It’s a gift to be a part of that.