When I first met Khalil, he was sitting at his kitchen table waiting for me. He knew a nurse was coming to ask him some questions. I felt bad that he was waiting for me and not playing with the other kids in the home. I asked his mom how long he had been sitting there and she said that Khalil had been sitting there since she told him a nurse was coming, she then stated, “he likes to be prepared for things.” When I walked over to introduce myself, Khalil grabbed his crutches, stood up and pulled a chair out for me. I immediately became enamored with him.
In between medical questions, I asked Khalil more fun questions, like his favorite subjects in school (Math and Science) and it turned out we had a lot in common. Khalil’s favorite color is red and I told him my favorite color was pink, which he informed me was his sixth favorite color. I also discovered that he REALLY ENJOYS playing with army men and playing army video games. When I asked Khalil if anything was bothering or upsetting him (usually kids are upset about missing school, taking gross meds and big pills, or a little brother), Khalil stated he was upset because he knew his mom was sad because of what was happening to him. He could tell because sometimes when she would come out of her bedroom her eyes were red. I knew I had a very special ten year old on my hands.
I also discovered I had a typical ten year old boy on my hands as well. He loved when I brought toys to our visits and even got upset when I forgot to bring army men and brought rubber insects instead. I remembered to bring the army men to the next visit. I also had to access Khalil’s central line with a needle that day. It turns out he does not like this procedure very much and was hesitant to take off his shirt and let me complete the “poke”, until I pulled out a special band aid that had camouflage on it. After getting that army band aid, he was ready for anything. That affect soon wore off and I had to come up with something different. I consulted with our child life specialist who came up with a great idea to include Khalil in the central line access set up and procedure. Khalil would be the captain and I would be the private and he would get to give me commands. Khalil liked this idea and went right to work giving me commands and still made sure to get his army bandaid at the end.
I was starting to get the idea that Khalil was into the Army, so with his mom’s permission I asked a friend of mine that is deployed to Kuwait if he would write Khalil a letter. My friend agreed and also wanted to send Khalil some posters, medals and pictures. My friend and I Skype weekly and he asked if he could Skype with Khalil sometime. With the help of the Gilchrist IT team, I found out that this was possible. I let my friend know and he ran it past his PAO. His PAO thought this was such a great idea that she sent out a letter to the soldiers at Ft. Meade asking if any of them were willing to meet Khalil in person. She received a response from their PAO, Mark Bell that many soldiers were willing to meet Khalil and the plans formed from there.
One day I got a call from a Ft. Meade soldier telling me that they were so excited to meet Khalil and they wanted to do more for him than just meet him. They wanted to honorary induct him into the army, take him for a ride in a humvee and adopt his family for Christmas. I could tell that they were super excited to meet Khalil. Over the next few weeks the three groups (me, Ft. Meade and the group in Kuwait) worked closely together to make this happen.
On the big day, I was so excited for Khalil to get home from school so I could surprise him and see the expression on his face. When he walked into the house he was in shock to see his house full of people. He didn’t know what was going on. His mom whisked him away to put on an Army uniform that the Ft. Meade soldiers had made for him. When he came back out, his smile was taking up his whole face. I quickly assessed him and then told him about Skype and that he was going to be talking with my friend who is a soldier. They chatted for a few minutes and my friend presented him with an award. Khalil was asking him questions like they were long time friends. My friend then said he was sorry he couldn’t be there in person so he had a surprise outside for Khalil. We walked outside to a yard full of soldiers and family and friends. Khalil was speechless.
He later told me that was the best day of his life and that he is taking his duty as a soldier very serious. His mother told me that she had to wait until Khalil fell asleep to peel off the army uniform after he wore it three days in a row. We wrote the soldiers thank you letters and he is still in touch with some of them.
A small piece of my job is controlling symptoms, but a family should not have to remember the nausea and shortness of breath. They should remember the good times and I am honored and feel so privileged to be a part of a big memory for Khalil and his family.
To view media coverage and more pictures from this day visit Gilchrist Hospice Care’s website: Operation Secret Soldier