DRACUT — Earlier this year, Julia Degnan stayed overnight at Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center in Boston.
After undergoing surgery on March 22 to have an atrium septal defect closure on her heart, the 9-year-old from Dracut was readmitted to the hospital days later after developing a blood clot on her atrium.
The only spaces available by then were in the Neely Pediatric Bone Marrow Transplant Unit, according to her mother, Bethany Degnan. When Julie felt well enough to get out of bed, she was brought to the unit’s play area where she found toys, books, and card games like Go Fish and Old Maid. She took a few DVD movies back to her room with her to watch from her hospital bed.
“I think they had very little amount of toys,” Julia recalled of the closet with a limited selection of toys for the children in the unit. “I also think that they could get some more toys so that they (would) have a lot more things to play with.”
Due to the vulnerability of the child patients’ immune systems, they are not permitted to leave the unit to go to the Ace’s Place Playroom, another play area at the hospital with toys, arcade games, and more.
“She was bummed out to not be able to go out there,” Bethany said.
The idea then struck Julia to raise money in order to purchase more toys for the patients at the Neely Bone Marrow Transplant Unit. This past Saturday, Julia raised $1,200 at a lemonade stand held at her aunt’s home in Dracut. Funds raised are also going towards the purchase of Kindles for the child patients’ use and to support a music therapy program for patients. About 20-25 toys were additionally donated by people from the community.
“She’s absolutely amazing,” Bethany Degnan said of her daughter. “She went through so much and we teach her about God and I told her that sometimes we don’t always have a reason for things happening to us.”
Maybe, the proud mother recalled telling Julia, she went through this to help other children.
“How kind that is of a 9-year-old girl who’s been in the hospital herself dealing with her own medical situation, and wanting to give back not only to other kids but that she was able to take something challenging and do something positive,” Andrea Colliton, director of Child Life Services at Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center, said. “It’s just very, very thoughtful and we appreciate it. The hospital appreciates it, the staff appreciates it … it’s always special when someone who has been in the hospital wants to give back.”
Degnan, 33, grew emotional when recalling how many residents shared news of Julia’s lemonade stand on social media. Several also stopped by on Saturday to hand them $100 bills, she said.
“It was just amazing to see people come together and to see that people trusted us,” Degnan said, her voice cracking. “There’s still so many good people in the world.”
Degnan added that many of the people who supported her daughter’s lemonade stand had a story of their own — either they themselves had overcome cancer or another illness, or knew someone who had been admitted to that hospital.
The Kindles have already been ordered and Degnan said Julia has a follow-up appointment on Sept. 11 and she is working out the details of when they will be bringing all the donated items to the hospital.
“Just seeing their faces of how happy they’re going to be, makes me very happy,” Julia said. “It makes me very happy that they’re going to get all this stuff.”
Follow Amaris Castillo on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.