I really don’t know where to begin, so I’ll start this way. I’m a member of SCI (and other sportsman’s organizations), and have been a hunter for 51 years. I’ve always felt that it’s a must that we “pay it forward” in some way, especially to those who face life’s huge challenges. The reason why I say that is, we never know how long we have on earth; and with that being said, let me touch on something that happened to me in 2011. I was hunting with a friend on my property. He went to his stand and I to mine. Long story short, I never made it to my stand. I suffered a major seizure and was unconscious for an hour and fifteen minutes. After an ambulance ride to the hospital, and spending 3 1/2 days there, and then seeing a neurologist, I was told I should consider myself very lucky. It seems a 65-year-old male who is unconscious for 75 minutes usually does not wake up. So, I consider every day since 10/28/11 a bonus.
As for the “pay it forward,” this past January I had the distinction of presenting a seminar on Food Plots for Small Acreage at the 2013 SCI Convention in Reno, NV. Since the convention was a four-day event, and I was speaking on three of those days, I figured what better way to make the event complete than by visiting a care facility for children, and to see if I could brighten their day. So, on the day I did not speak, I traveled to the Renown Children’s Hospital with hats and t-shirts in hand, donated by various sportsmen’s organizations. Once there, I autographed them to give to some of the children who are patients. Little did I realize what I was about to experience when meeting the children, their parents and the hospital’s pediatric nursing staff.
The visit was an education as to what the children have to endure, and the excellent care the hospital staff provides. The hospital’s Pediatric floor is designed and intended to give the children a relaxed atmosphere, making them feel more at home than in a “hospital” setting as most of us would expect to see. It is a well thought-out floor plan, convenient and friendly to patients and parents alike. I met and spoke with a dozen or so children and parents; but I want to focus on two of the children who really touched me.
First is Izayiah. He was born several months premature, is just over 14 months old now, and has spent his entire life at Renown. When I gave him a hat to wear, his mom said, “Oh, I don’t know, he doesn’t like hats. He’ll probably take it off right away.” Well, let me say this–you couldn’t get it off him. He loved them. Yep, I did say “them.” I gave his mom one too, and he wanted both.
The second is a little sweetheart named Deanna, who, if I remember correctly, is just over two years old. When I entered her room, we had to wash our hands to be as germ free as possible. At that point, I tuned around, because my eyes were welling up. Her father immediately approached me and thanked me for coming and said how cool it was to meet me–Really? It’s me who feels privileged. I’m no one important, just a fellow outdoorsman who was asked to speak at a Convention. It turns out Deanna’s father is an avid hunter who took his first elk at the age of 14. Having a common bond with the outdoors, it was the beginning of an interesting conversation that brightened my day as well. As for Deanna, when I gave her a cap and t-shirt, she would give me “high fives” and, while having my picture taken with her, her father and the nursing staff, she kept giving me smooches on the cheek. Like I said, she’s a cutie.
Although I met only a dozen or so children, parents and pediatric staff, it was a visit that I will always hold as special, and I thank them all for the opportunity, even though at times it was a bit emotional. Finally, in closing a chapter to this story, I have to say, the staff at The Renown Children’s Hospital are real angels for the service they perform. As for me, hopefully this story will go on and on, and I can keep “paying it forward,” and be thankful for those bonus days I’ve been given.– Paul Cwiklinski