Writing with heart
What began as a class assignment turned into a passion for two University of Georgia students.
Jessica Hill and Aly Satisky, human development and family science majors in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences, will soon see their names on Amazon as co-authors of a children’s book created to comfort kids and families experiencing a rare medical procedure.
“B is for Brogan” is a story about a teddy bear who comforts a little boy named Max, who is in the hospital about to undergo a Berlin Heart procedure.
The Berlin Heart is a ventricular assist device worn outside the body that provides life-sustaining support for patients awaiting a heart transplant. Brogan the teddy bear is outfitted with a mock Berlin Heart made from spare parts like a water bottle, string and felt that represents blood flow in and out of the device.
“Anything you can do for children to give them hands-on control, it helps give them mastery over situations and that’s a big part of them coping,” Satisky said. “And it’s also just for them to have a companion or a friend that is like them.”
Hill and Satisky, who both aspire to become Child Life Specialists, got the idea of writing a book during a Child Life Interventions class this spring. The story originated as a role playing exercise for a class assignment, but the students developed it into a book after some encouragement from their instructor.
They interviewed cardiologists and conducted additional research to expound on the original concept.
They’re finishing up the project this semester as part of instructor Amy Kay’s directed study, learning a lot about both the Berlin Heart procedure and the publishing world along the way.
One of the more surreal moments was an interview with David Rosenthal of Stanford University, one of the country’s leading pediatric cardiologists who is considered a pioneer in Berlin Heart procedures.
“I cried when he responded to our email,” Satisky said, laughing.
“The whole concept was to create something children could hold and learn about and prepare them for what they are about to go through,” Hill said. “At the end of the story, Max and Brogan become friends because they’ve both had this procedure.”
The project also is personal for both students. Satisky has known most of her life she wanted to go into the Child Life field. When she had to wear a feeding tube for six years as a child, a Child Life Specialist visited her school to talk to Satisky’s classmates.
“I just fell in love with the fact that you can’t change what’s going to happen to a kid if they have a disease or if they need surgery, but what you can do is make it the best experience possible for them,” she said.
Hill’s passion for the field grew from watching a close friend draw comfort from a Child Life Specialist while her 6-year-old son, Brooks, experienced a rare spinal cord surgery.
“Brooks’ mom shared how comforting it was to have someone in the room who was there to make their kid happy and feel OK, while she was able to ask questions and listen to the doctors during these stressful situations,” Hill said. “I saw how much peace they brought during Brooks’ procedures and the impact this Child Life Specialist had on their family, and I knew this was something I wanted to do.”
Hill and Satisky will publish the book through Amazon’s platform and eventually it will be available as an e-book or print-on-demand.
The two have no idea if the book will make a profit. They know the demand for such a resource may be small due to the rarity of the procedure, but they are committed to seeing it through to completion – and maybe writing more books in the future.
“There are a lot of patients and families who are experiencing this procedure who haven’t had any resources like this before,” Hill said. “So I’d say if this book could help those families in any way, it’s a great outcome.”