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April 25th, 2017

Mayo ‘Superheroes’ Use Their Powers to Give Young Patient Proper Sendoff

By In the Loop

Krystal Lamb, a child life specialist, knew that for Iram Sobarzo a visit by Spiderman would make for a special finish to his treatment and add to his excitement about ringing the bell to mark that milestone.

It was "Superhero Day" in the proton beam treatment area at Mayo Clinic Hospital in Arizona, and 6-year-old Iram Sobarzo had been ready for almost a week. He had talked about little else during that last week of treatment for a brain tumor. He was fixated on meeting Spiderman, his personal superhero. Staff had arranged a "Spirit Week" in honor of Child Life Month. Krystal Lamb, a child life specialist, knew that for Iram, the visit by Spiderman would make for a special finish to his treatment and add to his excitement about ringing the bell to mark that milestone.

On March 22, staff and family members gathered in the family waiting area, in costumes representing superheroes from Captain America to Superman and Wonder Woman. Iram's family and friends gathered as well, wearing T-shirts that read, "Peace, Love and Courage." Spiderman, a volunteer from Arizona Avengers, a charity costuming group that visits hospitals and other organizations, was waiting in the wings to make his appearance. Cameras were at the ready.

When Iram arrived, the scene overwhelmed the youngster, who covered his face. Family noted that the crush of onlookers may have been a bit much for the lad. Spiderman's gentle manner took over as he talked softly with the young patient. Staff quietly presented Iram the sticker that marked his final day of treatment. They also reminded him of the stash of gifts that awaited him following his final treatment.

Iram's mom, Annette, noted that it had been a challenging journey for her son. For nearly five months, Iram had complained of severe headaches. At first, he was diagnosed with migraine headaches. But the severity of the headaches worried Annette, and a CT scan revealed medulloblastoma, a fast-growing brain tumor. Surgery was scheduled for the next day at Phoenix Children's Hospital. "It happened so fast, I was unable to talk to Iram to let him know what was going to happen," Annette says. While surgeons were able to remove the tumor, Iram was unable to walk or talk for more than a month following surgery. He was then referred to Mayo Clinic for proton beam therapy.

Lamb, who got to know Iram well, noted that he had come a long way. "He started treatment being nonverbal," she says. “But as his treatment progressed, he interacted with staff. He really worked hard to get to where he is." Lamb noted that her patient arrived for his daily treatments "wearing his best superhero pajamas, with matching blankets and pillows."

Iram's send-off on his final day of treatment was joyful for his family, friends and the staff who gathered around him to let him know that they were "all in" to celebrate. A veritable web of support, if you will.

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Tags: Child Life Services, Krystal Lamb, Patient Stories, Proton Beam Therapy Program

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