There are few things in this world more powerful than a child’s smile.
For children on the Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare, a smile can mean many things. Pride after a productive physical therapy session. Excitement about an ability once lost and now regained. Delight in finding a new friend—or a favorite nurse.
The power of smiles to heal and inspire prompted Emily Syverson, RN, and her nurse colleagues to create their own music video highlighting the spirit and resilience of the children on their unit—most of whom spend months in the hospital recovering from traumatic injuries or major surgeries.
“We work with children and teens who have either been born with a complex condition, such as cerebral palsy, or who experience a life-altering situation, such as a brain or spinal cord injury, that requires them to live in a different way,” explains Syverson. “We meet kids where they’re at and help them regain strength.”
An Idea Becomes Reality
Syverson and her colleagues talked about making a music video for years. But it wasn’t until acclaimed singer and YouTube sensation Alex Boye visited Gillette last June that their idea took shape. One of the songs Boye performed for Gillette patients—Smiles for Life—struck them as the perfect soundtrack. They obtained Boye’s permission to use the song and quickly got to work, shooting short snippets of video with a basic GoPro camera.
Filming would last more than eight months and would ultimately include more than 20 patients. Syverson describes the process as fun—and eye-opening. “Being a nurse, I don’t always see what goes on in the rehabilitation gym. Capturing kids in those moments, working really hard and making amazing progress, puts things into perspective.”
Nurses throughout Syverson’s unit contributed to the video’s energetic and upbeat feel. One brought in dress-up clothes from home and arranged a parade of patients around the hospital. Night shift nurses playfully rolled, pedaled and wheeled down the skyway. Doctors and therapists even joined the fun.
“Including the entire team was an important aspect because that’s what we are,” says Syverson. “Everyone really got into it!”
Behind the video’s fun is a serious message—one that Syverson hopes resonates with everyone who watches the video. “We wanted to focus on our patients’ strength and abilities, not their disability,” says Syverson. “These kids work so hard on a daily basis. A simple task to us is not simple for them.”
That strength is apparent within the video’s first few seconds. Also apparent is the close bond that develops between patients and nurses. “We become one big family here. We get to know our patients and our families very well,” says Syverson. “We provide care, love and comfort all around.”
Those relationships sometimes make for difficult goodbyes. “Discharge days are typically hard around here,” laughs Syverson. “But they’re also exciting. We get to watch our patients spread their wings and fly.”
Capturing Real Moments
Though Syverson admits that certain scenes in the video—like the costume parade—were planned in advance, she emphasizes that it’s an accurate depiction of life for children on the Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit. “Most of the video was shot in-the-moment and on-the-fly. We’re capturing real moments for our patients.”
She adds that Smiles for Life is a fitting soundtrack for another reason—an important one. “No matter what life brings on their journey, these kids are smiling. There are lots of smiles around here.”