By Anita Creamer, Vitals contributor
All Haley Schneider wanted was some stickers to brighten up the life of her 5-year-old son, Noah, who was born with cystic fibrosis and, in December, was hospitalized with COVID-19.
But when an adorable Paddington Bear arrived at the hospital from someone in England, Schneider then understood what “going viral” on social media means.
Noah’s story ran on the “Good Morning America” website and Facebook page, and donations poured in to his hospital room at Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento Children’s Center from around the world.
“I anticipated that he might receive a card or two containing a sheet of stickers,” says Haley, who lives with her family in Yuba City. “We’ve been overwhelmed, and we’re so grateful.”
Cystic fibrosis is an inherited, life-threatening disease that damages the lungs, digestive system and other organs, and Noah has been hospitalized several dozen times during the past three years because of the disease. After testing positive for coronavirus two months ago, he was back in the hospital, on oxygen for much of the time.
It’s a hard path for a little boy. That’s why one of Haley’s friends asked Facebook friends to send Noah stickers. He loves the “PAW Patrol” cartoons, with their cast of heroic dogs, and he especially loves playing with sheets of stickers featuring the dogs.
That initial post received 20,000 “likes” on Facebook. Sacramento’s local ABC-TV affiliate picked up the story on Feb. 11. “Good Morning America” contacted Haley after that, and on Feb. 15, the story ran on the GMA digital sites.
The next day and for days afterward, packages began arriving at the hospital for Noah: toys, blankets, slippers and socks, ordered on Amazon and shipped directly to Sutter Medical Center; handwritten cards from around the world, many from other children with cystic fibrosis; and, of course, sheet after sheet of stickers.
Haley says that they have received more than enough and that she’s only shown Noah a fraction of what he’s received. She plans on donating many of the items to the Children’s Center Child Life Program. But for now, she reads the cards with her son.
“He gets excited about every single one,” she says. “And he’ll show every single nurse who comes in. He’s very proud of his cards and stickers.”
DeeDee Rodigo is a Sutter Medical Center child life specialist, focused on providing psychosocial support for pediatric patients and specializing in patients with cystic fibrosis. She has been Noah’s primary child life specialist for nearly three years.
With the cards, she says: “Giving Noah ways to participate in his care has given him control and mastery in a setting where control is very limited. Seeing how this has boosted his confidence and increased his trust in our medical team has been rewarding. He is an amazing little fighter.”
Noah has received antiviral drugs and convalescent plasma treatments, and he’s required a ventilator. But his health is slowly improving, Haley says, and he’s being weaned off the ventilator. His spirits are good — especially now, with the cards and stickers.
“I’m overwhelmed with thankfulness,” Haley says. “This gives me hope for the world. This is just one little story, but look at the outpouring of response. People have a lot of kindness in their hearts.”