Shae Burleson is a happy 9-year-old girl. You’d never know that a year ago, she spent 118 days in The Studer Family Children’s Hospital at Sacred Heart. On September 23, 2016, Shae was in a terrible car accident while heading home from school. In the ambulance, paramedics told her to try to stay awake. The last thing she remembers is being wheeled into the hospital. Twenty-three days later, Shae woke up, ‘connected to a bunch of stuff.’ Over the next four months, her doctors, nurses and volunteers became like family. Shae would spend Halloween and Thanksgiving in the hospital, undergoing a total of 8 surgeries to repair the extensive damage caused by the accident. “I had a feeding tube, an ostomy, my belly open … it was such a relief to have all that gone,” Shae says. “Now, I just have my scars.” And a wonderful outlook on life. Shae’s aunt, Sharon, who works at Sacred Heart as a respiratory therapist, was by her side through it all. “These doctors and nurses really affect these kids’ lives,” Sharon says. “Coming from a tough background, she wants to grow up and take care of babies because of what she’s seen.” Sharon admits she, too, has changed because of what she witnessed. “Seeing the other side, I was amazed,” she says.
“You already know the people you work with and how skilled they are. But when you see all the extra things they do that they don’t have to do, it’s just incredible.”Extra things like braiding Shae’s hair and painting her fingernails during recovery from another surgery, making a little girl feel beautiful when she’s learning how to change her own dressings or throwing up for the fifth time that day. “It made a difference because I knew that was above and beyond what they had to do. I saw the extra,” Sharon says. “Any nurse can come and give medicine or take vitals. You can tell they do it because they love what they do. It gave me a lot more pride to know I’m a part of that.”
Shae’s Dad and Aunt Sharon took turns at her bedside, where she had a team of doctors and nurses checking on her all the time. She grew especially fond of Dr. Weidner, who ‘put her back together.’ “I’m very thankful that they saved me,” Shae says. “And I love all of them. I love all of them. I’m just living a regular life now.” One day, Shae’s best friend came to visit. The girls went outside to draw with sidewalk chalk. Shae wrote her name, as big as she could. After all this time – through rainstorms and sunshine – her name is still there. Just like her name still in chalk on the sidewalk, Shae has left her mark in our hearts.