I can’t remember the first time exactly that we met our dear friend Shauna. It was sometime during our first stay at Children’s, where she worked as a pediatric oncology nurse. We were delirious, terrified, sleep deprived, and I was five months pregnant – so I can only imagine the visual she had when she encountered us. It couldn’t have been pretty. Luckily Shauna is not the type of person to judge a book by its cover – for we quickly became friends. And along the way we broke every boundary there was between patient family and caregiver. She was all at once nurse, friend, therapist, teacher, entertainer and cheerleader.
Ben loved her immensely, which was a huge gift to us. Shauna understood him and somehow managed to find his intensity endearing. She spent literally hundreds of hours with him (and therefore us) organizing his cars, playing wii tennis behind his back (so that he thought he was controlling the game), dancing and partaking in our “candy coping jar”. She truly knew him as well as our families did, which means the world to me. For when your child dies at the age of 3 ½, spending half their life in the hospital, there are very few people who really know them. Shauna did.
Shauna administered Ben’s transplant and came home with us the day we decided to end treatment. During the last 48 hours of his life she spent her holiday vacation texting me with me late into the night. She kindly explained to us the different stages of dying and the ways his breathing would change. She helped us know what to expect scientifically, knowing full well that nothing could prepare us for what was about to happen.
To say Shauna was an important person in Ben’s life, and in ours, would be a gross understatement. I honestly cannot fathom walking through what we did without her. I’m sure in the months following his death she needed a lot of therapy to undo the damage we did to her. But fortunately for us she has remained in our lives. And now Ryan and her daughter Maeve are the sweetest of friends.
A few weeks ago we gathered together to celebrate a new chapter in her career. Shauna accepted a position as a research nurse for the amazing Dr. Leslie Kean at ….The Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research! I can’t help but think Ben must be so tickled – as are we. Congrats Shauna on your new job! As you walk the halls, may you sense Ben’s presence and the presence of so many children’s lives that you changed by doing your job so extraordinary well.