Healing and Learning

Posted on Jul 19, 2019

Sisters Mirelys and Mia spend time in the Family Resources Library while Mirelys is receiving treatment at Johns Hopkins All Children's.
Sisters Mirelys and Mia spend time in the Family Resources Library while Mirelys is receiving treatment at Johns Hopkins All Children's.

“Yo no se cuando va a parar,” 10-year-old Mia shouts with glee as she pushes up her glasses and chases the robotic car she just programmed through the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Family Resources Library.

I don’t know when it’s going to stop!

The car eventually skids into a not-so-graceful halt and everyone, especially Kendall Williams, a school teacher with the Patient Academic Services Program, claps proudly. The kids are in the library for a group tutoring program that Williams enthusiastically helped kick off last year, but the deal they struck is that when they’ve finished their homework, it’s time for some fun.

“The tutoring program in the library is a great way to get patients out of their rooms and bring the kids together for studying and socializing,” Williams explains. “We work hard to involve the siblings who are often missing as much school as the child who is sick. They look forward to it and they get to know each other. If someone misses a day, the others are concerned. We are keeping them engaged, learning and having fun.”

Computer games, checkers and even programming robotic cars. The kids hardly notice when you throw in a little math, or maybe language arts—which is helping Mirelys, 11, and Mia learn English while they are in the hospital for Mirelys’ chemotherapy treatments for acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Once Mia’s own classes ended in Aibonito de Hatillo, Puerto Rico, their mom, Miriam, flew home to pick her up and bring her to Florida to be reunited with her sister, Mirelys. It has put all of them at ease to be together again.

“My heart was broken when we were apart,” Miriam explains. She brushes back her long chestnut hair instead of brushing away the tears as she thinks back to Mirelys’ diagnosis in December in Puerto Rico. It led to a frantic online search to find her daughter expert care somewhere on the mainland and a hurried move to access Johns Hopkins All Children’s Cancer & Blood Disorders Institute, which recently was ranked among the nation’s best by U.S. News & World Report. The rest of the family stayed behind. It hasn’t been easy.

“I have one healthy daughter, and I have one sick daughter,” she explains in hastily learned but near-perfect English. “I am trying hard to be there equally for both of them.”

Miriam finds herself thrilled with the tutoring program that has taken a great weight off of her. She now knows they will both be able to keep up with their schooling until Mirelys is cancer-free. “I know we made the right decision in coming here, and I know she is getting the best care—medically and now academically. It’s been a great comfort to me.”

“Let’s go,” Mia pleads. “It’s time for bingo!”

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Foundation and Suncoast Credit Unions for Kids help support patient academic services at the hospital.


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