As she stuffs her SUV with fluffy teddy bears, yellow dump trucks and tricycles to take back to the hospital, E. Leila Jerome Clay, M.D., director of the Sickle Cell Program in the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Cancer & Blood Disorders Institute, realizes this doctoring business is a little more than 9-to-5.
It’s about caring for your patients, of course, but also your neighbors, your community. Clay is determined to share what she has learned, what she knows about life, her culture, her heart and soul with children inside and outside the hospital who are eager to soak it all in.
As she loads the car, she stops for a moment and thinks about the event she just hosted for the Greater Tampa Chapter of Jack and Jill of America. Jack and Jill is an 81-year-old national organization, created by African-American mothers to create and offer excellent educational and cultural signature programs to make a difference in the lives of their children. Clay, who is a member along with her two children, was working with first- and second-graders on creating cards and gathering toys for sick children at the hospital along with the Grand Hampton community from Tampa.
When she is at work, Clay is dealing with children with rare blood disorders such as sickle cell and thalassemia. She is helping them and their families adjust to life with a chronic disease.
But on this day, she is volunteering for a group of healthy, happy children who have likely never faced or known of such ailments.
She recalls their joy, their empathy as they excitedly drew cards and wrote messages to other children they had never met and likely didn’t even know existed.
They asked questions.
Why don’t these kids look sick? Will they get better? Do they live in the hospital?
They got to learn about hospital careers that might interest them someday, and that anyone can get sick ... and, perhaps most important, they learned that there are people out there who want to help them. They got to learn that, on this day, with a pile of crayons and some paper, they got to be the ones to help.
Just another day in the life of a physician who is never off duty.