KANSAS CITY, Mo. - For the doctors and nurses of St. Jude, it's not just medicine they are giving. They are also welcoming the patients into their daily lives as the children battle their potentially life-threatening disease.
In that process, everyone inside the hospital becomes a family.
Theresa Holmes has only been a nurse at St. Jude for two years.
"I had wanted to work here earlier in my career, but I didn't have little kids,” she said. “I couldn't even watch the special on TV for days.”
But her work will live on forever in the lives of so many families.
Holmes is assigned to the part of the hospital which focuses on patients with Diffuse Pontine Glioma or DPG.
It's a tumor in the lowest part of the brain that controls most of body's vital functions.
From the time a patient arrives in her unit, the first medicine she dishes out is love.
"I'm afraid if I don't get attached to them, then I will not love them like needed to be loved,” she said. "So I think if I'm vested in them, then I will know what they need."
Holmes learns everything she can about the children and their parents, almost becoming a member of the family.
"We play a lot,” she said. “We have stickers and every time they come here they get stickers, it's just a role of thumb. If they have a painful procedure we let them get something out of the toy box."
Holmes has been there through holidays, Halloween and on her birthday.
"My first birthday here, I worked and thought it would be no big deal,” she said. “And one of our most difficult patients, he said ‘Stop,’ and sang happy birthday to me."
All of the memories are still fresh in her mind.
One includes a four-year-old boy who has nothing short of loving.
"We had him almost a year and a half and he came in very bad shape,” she said. “He couldn't do a lot of the things and he was swollen from the steroid, he was sweet, just as sweet, sweet kid. We knew he was dying and the parents couldn't accept it yet, they just weren't ready."
A lot of the children in her unit get chemo and radiation, and it could extend their lives for weeks, months or even years.
Holmes says she wish it could be even longer. But then, the inevitable happens.
Death is never easy. For Holmes, she has to deal with it daily.
Even with all the tears, Holmes say the job is still worth it.
"When you come in and that kid hugs you around the neck, it doesn't matter,” she said. “You know it doesn't matter, because it's all about them.”
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