As 11-year-old Jason Reeves sat patiently waiting for an appointment at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health, his soft, compassionate and thoughtful heart kicked in. Jason overheard a Riley organ transplant recipient weeping about her broken crayons, and he insisted right away on giving her his own box of new crayons. He wanted her to be comforted in her time of stress.
Having been sick for most of 2014 with chronic pain in his arms and legs, severe headaches, memory loss and the temporary loss of his vision, Jason understands the anxiety that can go hand-in-hand with medical challenges. "I want to give back to Riley in hopes that I can make a sick kid smile,” says Jason.
When he was 10 months old Jason was diagnosed with a large mass on his brain called an arachnoid cyst along with Chiari malformation syndrome with hydrocephalus. He needed an immediate shunt placement and was referred to Riley Hospital. Although his family lives several hours away in Evansville, they say Riley was worth the many trips for his 17 surgeries. Their first experience at Riley many years ago was so positive they didn't want to go anywhere else. Jason’s mother Connie has high praise for Riley nurses (especially Megan Lawless) and Jason's Child Life Specialist, Maggie Kirles. "I couldn't have asked for better people when you're going through a rough time," says Connie, adding they were incredible in their communication and in keeping Jason comfortable. In Jason’s words, "The nurses and doctors are amazing and Maggie at Child Life ROCKS!"
Jason has started selling ice cream sundaes to raise money to buy art supplies for the Child Life program at Riley. “He was a source of positivity and calmness for other kids in the hospital,” says Kirles. “He would often share his reason for being hospitalized with other patients which helped them feel more comfortable talking and coping with their own diagnosis."
Those who know Jason well are impressed by his mature and gentle soul, and how he instantly relates to other kids with special needs. There are many hobbies Jason enjoys, from reading science encyclopedias to playing the trombone to fixing computers, but what makes him most uniquely special to his family and caregivers is his genuine love of encouraging other kids.
"I'm excited to be a Riley Champion so I can tell my story,” says Jason. “Other people will know what I went through and maybe it can help someone else."