By Jackie, Dave and Jeff Johnson, grateful family
Published on January 22, 2016
Lots of parents at Advocate Children’s Hospital have seen the above message in the theme party invitations over the years and asked for the back story. So I am now offering Jenny’s story more people will know who this wonderful, loving and special little girl was, and how her theme support events happened.
On July 10, 1978, I planned to take Jennifer, then age 4, and her brother, Jeffrey, then age 2, to the Woodfield Mall for their photo. Early that morning Jennifer fell on the carpet and got a bruise along her cheek in a matter of seconds. I took the children up for a bath before the picture taking time and found several bruises on Jenny’s body. I called her pediatrician and he told me to bring her in around 3 so I took the children to the Mall for their pictures then headed to the doctor’s office. He said Jenny needed to go to Lutheran General Hospital for a transfusion because she was anemic.
That night after a spinal tap, she was diagnosed with ALL (acute lymphocytic leukemia) and admitted to the hospital. My husband, Dave, and I were in shock. As the next two years went on, we spent many days and weeks at Lutheran General Hospital (now Advocate Children’s Hospital-Park Ridge). The care and love of child life therapist Linda Bieschke Bensing and the whole pediatric staff helped us survive and made our hospital lives as tolerable as possible. But for Jennifer, they made it her second home. Every day Linda would bring crafts, entertainment, movies and more to her room. The one thing Jenny loved the most was when Linda showed up with her cart of pots, pans, bowls, stove, toaster oven, microwave, etc., so Jenny could cook the item of the day before Linda took everything out to the play room for the other children not in isolation.
After Jenny passed away on July 20, 1980, I found out that the hospital stopped offering the food activity for the children. Dave and I decided Jennifer’s Fund would go to benefit the children directly and give them something our daughter so dearly loved while in the hospital. All the tools and equipment were already there—only the food was needed. Thus, Linda developed the “theme” events. This has continued until last year when Linda came down to Florida to see how we felt about the funds going to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). We were fine with that as long as the young patients and their families got a few moments of fun while in their hospital environment.
Although the loss of a child never goes away, it is comforting to know that other pediatric patients can enjoy these “theme” events and families can have a fun distraction while in the hospital.
Advocate Children’s Hospital would like to thank the Johnson family for their continued partnership and generosity over the past 33 years. Learn more about Child Life programs.
Make a gift to the Jennifer Lynn Johnson Tribute Fund.