Anniel’s eyes light up when she sees a mermaid dressed in pink sparkles. Anniel and her mom are even more surprised when Mermaid Brittany starts speaking Spanish … just like them.
“Esta bonita,” says Anniel’s mom, Consuelo. Anniel and mom think the mermaid is pretty and are also pretty impressed she not only speaks Spanish and English, but also French.
They continue to strike up an entire conversation in Spanish while Anniel, originally from Bolivia, is staying at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital while she recovers from brain surgery and finishes therapy for a condition in her temporal lobe, which caused painful seizures, nausea and vomiting.
“Me gusta nadar,” says Anniel, explaining how she likes to swim at the beach and the pool. Her mom says it has been difficult that Anniel can’t go swimming because of all the precautions around COVID-19. Despite the circumstances, Anniel’s mom raves about their experience at the hospital and can’t say enough about the team of professionals they’ve worked with — from brain surgeons and therapists to nurses and Child Life specialists. “We have a great medical team that takes care of my little girl, who have continually demonstrated that they are interested in the life and the quality of life that my daughter would have after this surgical intervention.”
With limited visitations in place due to COVID-19, Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital has to be creative when it comes to finding ways to bring joy to patients. Today’s virtual visit with mermaids from Weeki Watchee Springs State Park was just one way to put smiles on faces during a challenging time for some families.
“I hope to visit again in the near future because meeting these wonderful kids has been the highlight of my mermaid career,” says mermaid Brittany. “When I realized Anniel spoke only Spanish, it was my opportunity to make the visit more personal since I speak fluent Spanish. Once she heard me speak her language, you could tell she opened up so much more."
After meeting Anniel, the mermaids virtually swim on to meet the next patient, telling jokes like, “What does a mermaid call her friends on?” (a shell phone) or “What does a shark eat with his peanut butter sandwich?” (jellyfish).
For Anniel, the smiles and laughs stay with her, and she says she’s even inspired now to be a mermaid for Halloween.