For Sharon Hart, the third day after her chemotherapy treatment for acute myeloid leukemia is always the hardest. That’s when she feels weak and sometimes discouraged.
“The blood levels are depleted and I get tired and sick to my stomach,” said Hart, of Bolingbrook.
She was feeling that way Saturday afternoon at Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center when she looked out the window and found reason to smile.
On top of the hospital parking lot, her 14-year-old son William had stomped out a message in newly fallen snow, in letters the length of two cars: HI MOM. The ‘o’ was made into a smiley face.
When he left the hospital hours later, William and his father and uncle added: GOD BLESS U! The gesture not only lifted Hart’s mood, but warmed the spirits of other patients, families, nurses and doctors as news of the message quickly spread. People posted pictures on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, drawing national attention.
“My son has never done anything like this before,” said Hart, 48. “He is a very caring child and very loving. ... He acted on instinct and from what was in his heart. I’m glad so many people got to see the message and that it touched so many. It shows how big God is.”
Hart was admitted to Rush after she was diagnosed with leukemia on Feb. 3. William arrived at the hospital to visit her and noticed the expanse of fresh snow on the garage. He stomped out the message, then called his mother and told her to look out the window.
“I wanted to send her the message because I thought it would brighten her spirits and help her get through this,” said William, a freshman at Bolingbrook High School. “I would love for her to be happy.
“This has been rough. I’ve been praying a lot and trying to not think about what’s going on so I can do good in school. I keep my hopes up and pray every night that my mommy gets well.”
With the help of a nurse, Sharon Hart climbed out of bed and opened the blinds. That’s when she saw that he had written, ‘HI MOM.’
When William left the hospital hours later with his dad and uncle, the three decided they would extend the message to all the patients. It was viewable from the east side of the hospital from the 9th floor to the top of the building.
“They wanted to write ‘God Bless U All,’ but they ran out of room,” said Deb Song, a spokeswoman for the hospital. So they wrote ‘GOD BLESS U,’ instead.
William said his first message was specifically for his mother. But after the visit, he thought about all the other families. As he and his father and uncle pushed around the snow with their feet, they noticed people gathering at the windows, waving, jumping and taking photos.
“It was very cold out there, but I didn’t care,” he said. “I wanted to get it done and let people see it. It’s amazing because just to see people feel happy feels good.”
A nurse who works the third shift noticed the message because a patient’s daughter was watching the men stomp it in the snow and became emotional.
When Angela Washek, 26, a registered nurse in the surgical intensive care unit, looked outside, she thought the men were just playing in the snow, she told the hospital staff. Then she realized that they were shaping letters.
Song said Washek emailed pictures to the medical staff.
“We don’t always get to see the good side of things in ICU,” Washek said. “People come out of surgery and they are in pain and feeling bad. When they feel better they go to another floor. This gave us a glimpse of people at their best. It boosted our morale, that’s for sure.”
Within an hour, staff from other parts of the building were coming over to get a peek at the message, Washek said. Then the story went viral.
“I still can’t believe this,” she said. “People have called from Pittsburgh and Cleveland and said they saw it. People want to care about the good side. A story, even a small one, makes people feel good. We all want to feel good at the end of the day.”
“We got such an overwhelming response from our doctors, nurses and staff who saw it and thought it was wonderful. The gesture was so simple, but so creative and nice,” Song said.
By Monday morning, the snow -- and the message --- had been cleared from the parking, Song said.
But through photos and stories, the power of the gesture has endured.
“She said it was really heartwarming, especially since she works with acutely sick patients, which can be tough,” Song said. “The gesture was so simple, but so creative and nice.”
Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun