On a long and colorful necklace, each bead tells a story.
At Mary Bridge for treatment of Hodgkins Lymphoma, 7-year-old Ethan Goozovat rolls the beads between his fingers and explains the meaning of each color.
Orange is for central line placement.
Yellow is for each inpatient admission – a “sleepover” at the hospital.
White is for chemotherapy.
Ethan has 44 white beads.
“I love ‘em so much,” Ethan says of the beads that fill three strands around his neck. “They mean courage and braveness.”
The beads are part of a program called “Beads of Courage” for children with chronic illness who receive treatment at MultiCare Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital & Health Center.
(The News Tribune: "Beads of Courage mark kids' battle with illness")
Earlier this month in the oncology clinic, Ethan became the first child to receive the special “Signature Heart” bead that symbolizes the completion of his treatment.
“I think it eased the tension of the treatments, knowing he was going to get a bead,” said Jennifer Brown, Ethan’s mom.
How “Beads of Courage” came to Mary Bridge
Ethan was one of the first patients to be enrolled in the “Beads of Courage” program that came to Mary Bridge in October, thanks to support from the Jim and Jane Taylor family.
“The Taylor family brought Beads of Courage to Mary Bridge in honor of my cousin Aaron Schulte,” said Quinn Taylor, Jim and Jane’s 23-year-old daughter. “When searching for a way to honor Aaron's life, we wanted to find something fun and meaningful to bring to Mary Bridge, and we found Beads of Courage to be the perfect combination.”
Aaron was 26 years old when he died April 2, 2007 after a yearlong battle with colon cancer. Aaron lived in Tacoma and volunteered with young oncology patients at Mary Bridge - he loved pulling Bingo balls on Thursday nights.
“The beads are beautiful and unique - they provide color in an otherwise gloomy situation,” Quinn said. “They are simple tokens that recognize and celebrate success, strength, and perseverance. I only hope that Beads of Courage brings joy and fosters pride in ill children. Aaron changed many lives, and I aspire to live my life as completely, as positively, and as courageously as Aaron lived his. My family and I hope that Beads of Courage will inspire ill children to stay positive, celebrate success, and continue living life to its fullest.”
Stories of strength and courage
Each young patient receives a “Beads of Courage” kit that includes a “Daily Bead Journal” to track their experiences. There are about 35 beads that represent milestones, procedures and acts of bravery. Every bead tells a story of hope, strength, and courage.
“It’s a way for them to share their story however they want,” said Julie Hertzog, Certified Child Life Specialist at Mary Bridge. “The people who participate love the program.”
The Hilltop Artists glass program in Tacoma even donated 900 “Act of Courage” beads. An “Act of Courage” bead symbolizes a time when a child showed remarkable strength. For one girl, that meant asking to shave her head before the chemotherapy had a chance to steal her hair. For another child, that meant dealing with the death of a pet dog.
Of his more than 100 beads, Ethan’s favorite is the anchor. A card that accompanied the bead describes the anchor this way: “Your family, friends and caregivers are thinking of you and offer the anchor as a symbol of hope. The anchor was often a seaman’s last resort in stormy weather, it is the anchor that remains firm and steady amidst the stormy waters. We hope that the anchor will be a symbol of strength for you to help see you through the ‘storms’ of life.”
When Ethan isn’t wearing his necklace, he hangs it above his bed, on a cross with an angel.
“It’s going to be something he can keep forever,” said his mom. “When he gets older, he can show his own kids how brave he was.”Not to forget the reason why “Beads of Courage” came to Mary Bridge, every necklace includes an “Aaron Schulte” bead, designed by his cousin Quinn.
On the bead, Aaron is wearing boxing gloves, fists up, strong in the face of a challenge.
“He was the greatest person I've ever met, and his presence alone made my world a little brighter,” Quinn said. “He was more than family to us - he was and will always be an absolute inspiration. Through sickness and health, he lived and celebrated every single day of his life.”
If you know of a young patient who has been diagnosed with a chronic illness who may be interested in the Beads of Courage program encourage them to talk with their Mary Bridge Outpatient clinic staff about getting enrolled. Check out www.beadsofcourage.com for more information about the national program.