Sebastian Moss and his brother, Grant, look forward to the books they pick out and later bring home from the Shining Star School at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital.
Sebastian, who recently returned home from the hospital, sat in his back yard paging through his books, most of them about animals. “Pete the Cat: Old MacDonald Had a Farm” by Kimberly and James Dean is one of his favorites.
Sebastian and his twin brother have been patients at the Catholic hospital many times since they were 6 days old. They have a genetic condition, propionic acidemia, a rare disorder in which the body is unable to process certain parts of proteins and lipids (fats) properly.
In the hospital in July, Sebastian worked with Shining Star School teacher Shelly Goedde on colors, numbers and puzzles. He also played a digital Jeopardy-style game with an Olympics theme.
The books are an important connection. “It gives them a good memory of the hospital and the fun things they get to do there,” their mom, Amber, said. “If there’s something specific the kids like, the teachers go above and beyond to order that. And they send supplies home, games they can play. It’s really a good resource that Cardinal Glennon provides.”
The boys are 8 years old. They have special needs with individual educational plans from their school, and the Shining Star School teachers work with their school. “It allows them to have a sense of normalcy even in a hospital setting when things aren’t ‘normal’ for them,” Amber said.
Being caught up with their peers on schoolwork is one less concern for the hospital patients, Amber observed.
The Shining Star School began in 2014. “We are all about our kids, totally patient and family centered,” said Brenda Wilson, who is the other teacher in the program and has been there since its start.
Sometimes Brenda and Shelly only coordinate the patients’ school assignments. Other times, they tutor students or meet with students’ educators to help the patients receive extra support for their medical condition or a disability. “We bridge a gap,” Brenda said.
The educators help older patients learn to communicate effectively with their regular teachers regarding their schoolwork. Brenda gave the example of a 12-year-old who eventually excelled at it. “That’s a skill that’s going to serve her the rest of her life,” Brenda said.
The Shining Star teachers serve in all the inpatient units and in the outpatient dialysis area and the hematology and oncology area. Children who are hospitalized or who live with a chronic illness benefit from keeping much of their regular routines.
Assisting the teachers are a few volunteer students from the Saint Louis University School of Medicine in the Ped’s Pals program. The book program accepts new books and funds to purchase books. Other volunteers help distribute the books to patients.
Some patients borrow a robot synced to an ipad. The robot goes to their school and the patient, while recovering or receiving treatment at home, uses the ipad to direct the robot’s two-way camera. Shining Star School has used that and other technology to connect with schools for several years.
Shelly praised the support Shining Star School receives from the hospital community, individual donors and the SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Foundation.
A parishioner at St. Joseph in Manchester, Shelly said that she brings her faith to work each day “knowing that we have a loving God who is so merciful and kind. I see it in the staff here at Cardinal Glennon by the amazing way they care for patients.”
There’s something special about the nurses, doctors and other staff, she said, and the patients are inspiring. “They’re our superheroes.”
How to help
SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital’s Shining Star School helps promote general academic development, social and emotional development as well as the overall well-being of children in the hospital setting.
Shining Star School staff would like to expand by adding a teacher with a special education background and move to a floor with school-age children.
Support the Shining Star School and other areas of need by donating to the Children’s Fund at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon. Make a gift at glennon.org or by mail at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Foundation, 3800 Park Ave., St. Louis, MO 63110. For information, contact the foundation at (314) 577-5605 or [email protected].