The morning show visited Riley Hospital for Children yesterday, spending time with children who are being treated for various illnesses, some for days, some for weeks, and for one who left a lasting impression, for life.
He was just 18, and fighting a disease that he’d struggled with since infancy. I remember how the day began. Driving down to the hospital, getting lost despite being there a dozen times before, circling the garage repeatedly for a parking spot, and walking a quick trot in order to meet the guys and our contact inside the lobby.
And then we met him.
For privacy’s sake, I’ll call him Luke. Luke was playing the hospital’s X-Box inside a playroom, trying to distract himself from the pain and reality of his life. And he greeted us with a smile, standing up to shake my hand, while attached to tubes that fed him some comfort. I was touched by his spark for life, and noted his good manners when he asked me, ‘Do you mind if I sit down?’
I admired his charm and knack for finding the good among a not-so-great situation, as he detailed the various plans he had for the future.
An actor. A director. But, not a singer. ‘Never that,’ he told us, ‘I can’t sing.‘ That makes two of us.
I learned a lot about the strength of a young man in a very short time. He has practically grown up in this hospital, and the staff is like family. His own family can’t visit every day, and he has several brothers and sisters. He ‘doesn’t look 18,’ as he told us, and he hoped to go home by Sunday, not for the Super Bowl, but because he has a date. ‘This is an important date,‘ Luke said. One he’s looked forward to for a long time. And one that involves a trip to T.G.I. Fridays.
Life for Luke could be better, but he doesn’t say that. He’s made the most of what he’s been given, and despite many setbacks, is thinking ahead to a life outside of the hospital. We thanked him for his time, and not surprisingly, he thanked us, saying our visit made him happy. Yet, we’re the ones who gain the most from these visits. One thing that was clear as I left Riley…Luke is a hero and has a great story to share.
He may not look 18, but he’s wise beyond his years. I’m crossing my fingers for Sunday. For the Colts…
…and for Luke.