Expert medical care inspires one teen to give back
When the all-terrain vehicle Addison Arabia was riding on flipped, crushing her leg, the lengthy recovery might have left the 11-year old with an aversion to hospitals and doctors in surgical scrubs.
Instead, Addison recalls the kindness and caring of the skilled University Hospital trauma team members who replaced her dying tissue with skin grafts seven years ago, then helped her learn to walk again on her recovering leg.
“It made me think about what I want to do in the future. How do I give back?”
As a student at Reagan High School in San Antonio, Addison began to answer that question. She and some of her classmates created a club, Trauma Treat, which looks for ways to ease the pain of other hospitalized children.
Last Christmas the students collected dozens of donated toys and gifts for 60 children at University Hospital. They dressed like elves in their club t-shirts and leggings, then went room-to-room delivering headphones, building blocks, stuffed animals, dolls and other presents to kids who needed some cheering up.
Addison realized just how much the gifts and attention meant to the children when she handed a Barbie doll to one little girl in the intensive care unit.
“She screamed. She was so happy. It was the first toy she’d gotten all year,” Addison remembered.
Trauma treat members returned at Easter to deliver bags of goodies for an Easter egg hunt.
Trauma Treat is now a sanctioned club with a high school faculty sponsor and plans to continue delivering surprises and hope to hospitalized children.
Addison recently graduated from high school but she has ensured the program she started will continue. This fall another Reagan student who was riding with her when the ATV crashed will take over as chief organizer for Trauma Treat activities.
Addison sees a future where she’ll continue to give back. She says she was inspired by Dr. Lillian Liao, an assistant professor of surgery at UT Health San Antonio and the Pediatric Trauma and Burn Program director at University Hospital.
Dr. Liao was one of the trauma surgeons who helped repair Addison’s leg.
“I want to be a trauma doctor. I want to specialize in skin grafting like Dr. Liao,” Addison explained.
Dr. Liao said knowing she can be a role model for young patients is an honor and a bonus.
“I think it’s one of the things we seldom think about as a byproduct of medical care. We’re not just influencing their health but their futures,” she said.
Addison is now preparing for her freshman year at Texas A&M University where she’s majoring in public health, then she plans to go to medical school.
Years from now, she hopes to be delivering more than holiday presents to sick children. She wants to provide the kind of healing and care that will encourage another generation to consider how they too can give back.