Boy’s letter to hospital leads to class getting unusual show
SNOHOMISH — The letter sat in the boy’s backpack for quite some time before he told anyone about it, but he felt he needed to send it. The letter contained words of gratitude, pain and hope. He had written it as part of a class assignment, and debated if he wanted to send it.
But, he was thankful his grandfather was alive and he needed to tell them. The letter would tell them.
Tell them, it did. The result of which was a lot bigger than the boy could have imagined.
Niko Johnson, 12, is a Dutch Hill Elementary student who wrote a letter to Providence Health & Services’ regional CEO Dr. Rod Hochman thanking him and telling Hochman that he loved Providence because his grandfather’s triple-bypass surgery at one of Providence’s Everett hospitals saved his life.
“…[I]f he had passed I would be so sad because he is one of the most influential people in my life,” his letter said. “I admire your work with Providence and I am so amazed that medical science can keep people alive with such deadly diseases.”
Hochman was so moved by Niko’s letter that he requested Providence in Everett to do something special for the boy. Soon after, they invited Niko and his classmates to tour the Providence Health & Services clinic in Monroe to experience how the same technology that had saved his grandfather’s life works and operates.
The class, Alex Snyder’s sixth grade students, visited the clinic last week for a behind-the-scenes tour.
They got to see first-hand some of the clinic’s state-of-the-art medical imaging equipment, such as a CT scanner, MRI machine and X-ray machine. They were allowed to tour patient rooms, and the check-in station. They also got to see, poke and hold donated human organs on the tour through Providence’s Inside Out organ show.
The Inside Out show, hosted by Shawneri Guzman, displays trays of both healthy and tainted human organs, such as hearts, lungs, kidneys, aortas, stomachs, livers, tongues and brains to educate school-aged children the negative effects of poor eating habits, tobacco, drugs, alcohol and energy drinks.
Dutch Hill sixth grader Kaycee O’Halloran, 12 (left) picks up a set of scarred and damaged human lungs caused by smoking, while Providence Health and Services medical assistant Maggie Grande watches behind her during a tour of Providence's Monroe health clinic on Tuesday, June 3.
The show has reached over 12,000 Snohomish County children to date since its creation in 1989.
It still inspires wonder — the children were awed by the spectacle.
Niko said holding the human brain was his favorite part of the tour.
“These are the types of things you remember as a kid,” Providence Everett’s CEO Preston Simmons said. “This is awesome because the kids can come out and see sort of the inside track of healthcare and sse that it’s not so scary. We’re excited to share our organization, and hopefully from this, some of these children go into healthcare someday as a profession.”
Simmons, along with Dr. Hilary Starr — a former Dutch Hill student — accompanied the class on the tour.
Niko’s grandparents, Bob and Donna Strom of Gold Bar, were there as well and toured with the class.
It was an exciting day not only for the class, but also for Niko’s family.
“Who would have thought all this would happen from a letter,” Donna Strom said. “It’s such an incredible thing. When he had this assignment, none of us expected it to go this far. His mother was quite ill at the time that (the letter was written), and I can remember Bob and I discussing this with Niko for about an hour. He didn’t want to do it, and we told him to put your passion into it. Speak from your heart to somebody that has impacted your life one way or another. None of us knew he had picked (to write to the CEO of) Providence. I think Bob did, because Niko may have spoken about it with him during the 40-minute drives back and forth to school. That’s one of the blessings of this, those conversations that (Niko) and his grandfather get to have.”
In order to be in a Snohomish school, Niko’s grandparents drive Niko to and from Gold Bar every day. He has lived with his grandparents since February.
“Niko has spent a lot of time with us,” Donna said. “Bob is a very important male figure to Niko and Bob’s surgery had a big impact on Niko.”
With the success of his grandfather’s surgery, which took place in November 2012 at the Everett facility of Providence, Niko has been given more time to spend with his grandfather. He was very clear in his letter about that fact.
“Niko could have written a letter to a sports figure, a movie star or a pop singer, but instead he chose to write it to a health system CEO, because his grandfather means so much to him,” Providence spokeswoman Cheri Russum said. “It’s a wonderful story about the bond of a boy and his grandparent.”