‘That was just a really beautiful thing as not everybody is able to see through the disability to see that human piece of him who just wants to understand what’s happening.’
Sometimes it is a simple gesture of kindness and compassion that makes all the difference – as was the case for Kelli Sowa and her 16-year-old son, Gabe, during a recent appointment at Gritman Medical Center.
A visit to the hospital can be anxiety-inducing for anyone, but it is especially stressful for Gabe, who was diagnosed with autism when he was 2. While Gabe is a “really smart and funny kid,” he can struggle with new social situations and communication, his mother says.
So when Gabe arrived at Gritman for a blood draw, Kelli was not optimistic the visit would go well. Gabe was visibly nervous, shaking and sweating.
“I was really unsure – Gabe is really strong and he can have some challenging behaviors and aggression,” Kelli said. “I can’t just say, ‘hey, we have to go get your blood drawn.’ He doesn’t really understand, but he does understand there is probably pain involved. It can just cause a lot of anxiety and fear for him.”
– Kelli Sowa
“The one thing about Gabe is he has a really good sense for people who are kind, compassionate and gentle, and that’s what we found at Gritman,” Kelli said. “It was obvious that for Gabe, them taking time to explain everything step by step and be empathetic and kind and recognize his emotions really helped him gain trust in them. That was just a really beautiful thing for me as a mom because not everybody is able to see through the disability to see that human piece of him who is just a scared young boy who wants to understand what’s happening.
“There was a real element of genuine compassion and genuine desire to make him feel safe and comfortable. It makes a really big difference to someone like me or someone like Gabe. For them, it is probably just how they are, just normal. But what they do matters and makes a difference.”
Kelli is hopeful the positive experience will make future medical appointments for Gabe less stressful.
“To me, as a mom, it was so relieving and just a huge weight off, because I don’t want to have to see my kid held down to have his blood taken,” Kelli said. “He has been held down before for shots, and to see that didn’t have to happen because of these people just taking their time and being compassionate, being empathetic, was just beautiful. I was just really touched by that.”