When your child is hospitalized with a life-threatening illness, the rest of the world ceases to exist. At least until reality begins to creep back in.
There’s paperwork to be signed, insurance companies to be called, childcare arrangements to be made for the sick child’s siblings, and bosses who must be briefed.
A woman named Laura experienced all this firsthand last year when her 4-year-old son was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a type of cancer that attacks the blood and bone marrow. For weeks, the little boy hadn’t been feeling well. He had night sweats. He wasn’t acting like himself. But doctors couldn’t find a problem. Then came the petechiae, an alarming splattering of blood spots on his face and eyes.
“Two days later, we had an official diagnosis,” Laura told me. “It was devastating.”
Devastating and disorienting. “You go through so many major changes and upheaval in a matter of hours, you can’t think clearly,” she said. “That’s where Megan comes in.”
Megan was the pediatric social worker assigned to work with Laura and her family. Megan was in the room when doctors first described the boy’s diagnosis. She successfully helped the family push back against their insurance company when they were told treatment at Tufts, in Boston, wouldn’t be covered. And because the family’s entire extended support system was in Florida, not in Boston where they lived, Megan wrote a letter explaining the diagnosis to Laura’s mother’s boss. The letter explained why Laura’s mom needed to take time off from work to care for Laura’s 18-month-old brother while Laura and her husband focused on their sick child. Megan guided the family through complicated paperwork and connected them with financial counselors. She checked on the family every day—sometimes multiple times a day—answering questions, coordinating resources, and reassuring them that everything would be okay.