She Couldn’t Go Outside, So Nurses Brought the Snow to Her

by Elizabeth Turnbull

As dry streets disappeared under fluffy layers of snow last weekend, two nurses at Seattle Children’s Hospital made sure one young patient could experience the weather along with the rest of Seattleites. 

Chebar, 16, had only seen snow twice before but a recent fracture in her leg, following complications from a bone marrow transplant two years ago, meant that she was going to have to be creative to get the full snow experience.

After asking her nurses to bring in a cup of snow, Chebar didn’t know how seriously the nurses had taken her request. They surprised her with two large tubs of snow that she quickly formed into a snowman named “Jeff.”

“We just thought if we were going out in the snow we’d get a big amount, so we brought two big gray bins of it and we brought it in to her,” said Anna McClenny, a nurse who delivered the snow along with a certified nursing assistant named Theresa. “With our patients, they go through so much and so we just — I wanted to bring a small amount of joy and happiness.”

Chebar made Jeff a hat by cutting up a non-skid hospital sock and used straws to give him arms. To make sure he didn’t melt and stayed safe from anyone who might knock him over, McClenny brought him back outside and put him in a small park area that faced Chebar’s window so she could still see him from her room. 

Chebar with her snowman “Jeff.” Photo by Laura Carr

Chebar’s health has been a long-term struggle and in 2018, she moved to the U.S. from Uganda, parting from some of her family to receive treatment. Amidst health difficulties, separation, and dealing with the isolation of hospitalization and the pandemic, the snowman marked a moment of joy that she wanted to document and that a family friend later posted on Facebook.

“She made this one minute video — so excited,” said Laura Carr, a family friend and founding director of the non-profit Children of the Father’s House, which has helped Cheba in her journey. “Some of those kids don’t get to see other people, especially right now with COVID, and the way [the nurses] reached out to her to just see her as a kid and not just as a patient was really heartwarming.”

Ultimately, through Chebar’s ingenuity and the nurses’ kindness, the snowman created a small moment of joy during difficult experiences and another opportunity to experience the magic of snow. 

“To be so far away from home, and to have so much isolation and the novelty of the snow, being where she’s from, all of that combined together just makes it a more poignant gesture than even if it was a kid from Washington who’d seen a hundred snows,” Carr said. “This was a kid who’d seen like three snows ever.”

Elizabeth Turnbull is a journalist with reporting experience in the U.S. and the Middle East. She has a passion for covering human-centric issues and doing so consistently.

Featured Image: Cheba – photo by Laura Carr

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