Shelby Skiles estimates that she’s met between 200 and 250 nurses and nurse technicians in the course of her daughter’s four-month battle with cancer.
Two-year-old Sophie was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma on May 18 after she stopped breathing at home and was rushed to Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, where doctors found a softball-sized tumor in her chest. She’s been in and out of the hospital ever since.
During this journey, Skiles has been moved by the hard work and dedication of every nurse she’s met ― from the emergency room nurses to the radiology nurses to the chemotherapy clinic nurses to the whole nursing staff at Children’s.
To show her appreciation for this dedicated group of healthcare workers, the East Texas mom wrote a beautiful Facebook tribute that’s since gone viral.
Skiles’ post took the form of a letter addressed to “peds nurses (and incredible nurse techs!).”
“I sit on this couch all day long and, I see you,” she wrote. “You try so hard to be unnoticed by me and my child. I see your face drop a little when she sees you and cries. You try so many ways to ease her fears and win her over. I see you hesitate to stick her or pull bandaids off. You say ‘No owies’ and ‘I’m sorry’ more times in one day than most people say ‘thank you’.”
Skiles detailed some of the big and small things these nurses do every day, as they juggle caring for multiple patients, work quietly through the night and find ways to bring joy and comfort to sick children and so much more.
“I see you stroke her little bald head and tuck her covers around her tightly. I see you holding the crying mom that got bad news,” she wrote. “I see you trying to chart on the computer while holding the baby whose mom can’t or won’t be at the hospital with her.”
Skiles praised the way nurses put aside everything happening in their own lives to spend long shifts caring for sick and sometimes even dying children ― always with a comforting smile.
“You see Sophie’s name on the schedule and come to check on us even when she isn’t your patient. You call the doctor, blood bank, and pharmacy as many times as necessary to get my child what she needs in a timely manner. You check on me as often as you check on her,” the mom wrote. “You sit and listen to me ramble for 10 minutes even though your phone is buzzing and your to do list is a mile long.”
She continued, “I see you using your phone as a template to paint the perfect cartoon character on the new kid’s window. I see you cheering so enthusiastically for the kid taking laps around the nurses station. I see you with that Nerf gun hiding from the kid around the corner. I see you hold tiny hands, change dirty sheets, translate medical talk for parents, and wipe your eyes coming out of a particularly hard room. I see you put on gloves, masks, and a gown then pause before you hang an IV bag of poison chemo for my kid.”
Ultimately, the mom wrote, no amount of cards or snack baskets could show parents’ appreciation for their children’s nurses. “You are Jesus to us every single day. Our children wouldn’t get what they need without you. Moms like me wouldn’t feel sane or heard without you. You save our babies and we couldn’t do this without you,” she concluded.
Skiles signed her letter “A mom that sees all you do and loves you dearly for it.”
The beautiful post has received nearly 50,000 likes and has been shared more than 25,000 times.
Skiles told HuffPost that before Sophie’s diagnosis, she was oblivious to the world of pediatric nurses beyond brief interactions during her children’s check-ups at the pediatrician’s office.
“It has just floored me the huge responsibility heaped on these oncology nurses. They all take it with such grace,” she said, adding that she’s gotten to see so many nurses at work since May 18. “It’s just so humbling to watch them be truly servant-hearted.”
She added, “I’m a teacher, so I’m used to being in kind of a thankless job myself. So I like to be on the lookout for ways to show my appreciation to the people around me when I can.”
One night when she couldn’t sleep, Skiles started listing the things she’s seen nurses do that have touched her heart and decided to write her open Facebook letter. She says she could fill a whole second letter with more examples.
Sophie’s journey has been difficult, and she’s not quite out of the woods yet. After doctors identified the tumor in her chest, which was impeding her airway, she had to go to the ICU immediately and was started on heavy steroids to shrink it. Over the next 12 weeks, she underwent chemotherapy and had to be admitted to the hospital for a long stretch due to fevers.
In August, they learned she wasn’t responding to the chemo and her cancer had spread to her chest wall, lymph nodes and bone marrow.
“We spent a very scary week on a ventilator in ICU with a chest tube and 15 rounds of adult grade chemo in five days,” Skiles told HuffPost. “Thankfully she responded to that and is currently essentially cancer free. The aggressive chemo, however, has taken her voice, ability to eat, her ability to walk and her motor skills ... all of that should be temporary, but It’ll be a long and slow road through therapies.”
For now, Sophie is being treated at Children’s in Dallas as they wait for a STEM cell transplant. “I’m pretty much living at the Ronald McDonald House full time, and my husband comes when he can as well as both of our moms and my sister. We have great support!” Skiles said.
They will transfer to Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth for the transplant due to insurance reasons. “We have a match through cord blood that someone so graciously donated, so we are forever thankful for that. And we are hopeful that the transplant will kick it forever!” the mom explained. “Transplant will be a long and scary process, but as Sophie’s favorite ‘VeggieTales’ song says, ‘God is Bigger.’”
Skiles told HuffPost she wrote her viral Facebook post to simply thank the nurses for caring for her daughter and treating her with dignity and respect throughout the process.
She also wanted to raise awareness around childhood cancer and what taking care of a sick kid entails. “It’s not just cute bald heads,” she said.
Now that the post has reached so many people, Skiles hopes it will inspire people to show nurses and other medical personnel how valued and appreciated they are.
“Maybe it’ll inspire someone to go to nursing school, or it could inspire others to just ‘be kind to one another’ like Ellen says. I promised Sophie’s Facebook followers from day one that I would be honest about every aspect of this journey from the amazing to the devastating and this list was part of some raw moments in my heart that I just decided to write down.”