They don’t teach you how to make slime in nursing school — or maneuver around silly string attacks, make balloon animals, or dance wearing a tutu. But such is the life of a pediatric nurse who has devoted herself to caring for kids with cancer after her own son was diagnosed with a blood disorder.
“I wanted to give back to at least one person here,” says Lindsay Jones, R.N., a nurse at the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Cancer & Blood Disorders Institute, the very place that treated her eldest son. While administering chemotherapy, performing blood transfusions, and starting thousands of IV medications, are all vital parts of the work, it’s the stuff not in the nursing books where she’s long surpassed her goal.
“I can’t leave work at work,” says Jones, surrounded by other oncology nurses in a small breakroom where the walls are adorned with hand-written thank you cards with adorable, albeit sometimes misspelled, messages from former patients. “We spend so much time with them it’s hard not to see something cute at the store for them and not buy it.” They all nod in agreement. They’ve all bought toys, art supplies, trinkets, and even costumes for dress up days for their patients. “If I have to dress up and make myself look ridiculous, if that’s what it takes to make someone smile, it’s worth it,” Jones says.
Undergoing her fourth and hopefully final round of chemotherapy for acute myeloid leukemia, 7-year-old Ruthie and “nurse Lindsay” have shared a lot in five months. “Ruthie loves arts and crafts,” says Jones, who got schooled in the art of slime making from the sassy sommelier of slime. Ruthie recites several different recipes for the colorful goo that include glue, baking soda, contact lens solution and shaving cream. She even knows a special concoction for edible slime using melted marshmallows. Ruthie’s mom, Eileen, looks relieved that today’s formula is more traditional. “You just have to have a certain something,” she says of her daughter’s nurses. “They make it like you have family here.”