One of the fun parts of covering the Iowa Hawkeyes is visiting the University of Iowa’s Children’s Hospital with the women’s basketball team.
Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder does a great job of getting her team involved in the community.
Last summer they spent at least one day helping sandbag when the Flood of 2008 hit and destroyed so much property on campus, in Iowa City and Coralville.
The sandbags were heavy and it was pretty messy work, but the players and the coaches pitched in and enjoyed helping out.
Every year they visit the children in the hospital, and I’m not sure who enjoys it more– the kids or the players.
I spent a lot of time in hospitals growing up. I had to travel to Grand Rapids, Mich. and stay at a hospital called Mary Free Bed.
Either Mom or Dad took me, and we usually went by train from Sioux City (15 miles west of Moville, my hometown) to Chicago, where we changed trains. We ended up in Battle Creek, Mich.
My great aunt Leona and uncle Charles Baker lived on the edge of a small town outside of Battle Creek called Bedford, and we stayed with them.
Grand Rapids was only 50 miles away, so we could leave early in the morning, go to the clinic at 9 a.m., get my artificial legs fixed at the leg shop, and be back to Bedford by supper time.
When I was 11, I started flying to Grand Rapids by myself and would usually fly in Wednesday afternoon, go to the clinic Thursday morning, get my legs fixed that afternoon and fly home Friday.
The only time I had to stay for an extended period was when I was six years old, and I had the Krukenburg surgery performed on my right arm.
Since my right hand was born with a stump, the surgery, which originated in WWI, split my radius and ulna and gave me two fingers. After that, I didn’t have to wear my prosthesis (hooks) any more.
I was probably in the hospital for at least two months because I missed the first couple weeks of first grade.
Two months for a six-year-old is a long time. I went to OT (occupational therapy) once or twice a day and if I had new legs I went to PT (physical therapy) at least once a day.
We also got to swim once or twice a week in an indoor pool plus went outside every afternoon in an enclosed area to swing, shoot baskets or maybe play catch with a patient, a nurse or an orderly.
The reason I’m telling you this is I don’t ever remember any of the local college teams coming to visit us.
I do remember one time some guy came up and played a saw like a violin– really– and it sounded really neat (remember I was only six or seven).
That’s why I like to go along with the team. To see the kids' eyes light up when the players walk in the room. To see the players smile when they talk to the kids and to see Coach Bluder charm all the patients and parents and make them feel comfortable – it’s no wonder she is such a good recruiter.
One of the patients, Devann Hildenbrand, is a sixth-grade girl from Marion, where the head coach grew up. They hit it off immediately and the coach made a great impression sharing stories of the neighborhood.
“It was so much fun and cool,” said Devann, who had plenty of energy, a great smile and a wonderful personality. “I got a poster and they signed it for me and I got this Hawkeye bag with some goodies inside.”
Devann was so excited when I asked her for an interview that it took her a couple of seconds to answer when I asked her what her name was.
When she didn’t answer right away I asked, “You don’t know your name?”
“Yeah I do but it’s kind of weird,” Devann explained.
(I’m guessing this was her first interview ever).
I’m sure the patients and the players won’t forget the Hawkeyes visit to the hospital … I know Devann won’t!