To learn more about Brad Aronson and his book “Human Kind: Changing the World One Small Act At a Time,” visit: www.bradaronson.com/humankind-book/
My name is Brad, and I was introduced to Penn Medicine the way most people are, with a bad diagnosis.
My wife was diagnosed with leukemia, and we were told that she would need two and a half years of treatment. You immediately go to the hospital for a month, and then, if all goes well, and in that month you're in remission, you then get to go home. But you’re back every single day, at other points 4 days a week. We got to spend more time than most people at Penn.
We really appreciated the culture and the people. And it starts from the second you get there. When you go for your treatment you pull into the parking lot. All the people working are so friendly and kind. And it just makes you breathe easier.
And then you get to the elevators. And we always parked on the same floor. The woman was so nice, she would talk to us, learned about our son Jack. It was just part of that friendliness that carried through and it made a huge difference.
I cannot say enough praise about the nurses. We spent a lot of time with them. They must see dozens of patients a week, but every patient is an individual. They're not just treating you, they see you as a person, and they have conversations. And those conversations really matter. I remember one time, when we were talking to one of the nurses, Abby, and we were telling her about our son's obsession with baseball. Jack loves the Phillies, he has five different Philly shirts that look the same. And I remember one time we got a call at home, and it was Abby. I was at first a little bit nervous, like why is a nurse calling us at home. And she said, I just wanted to let you know that my boyfriend has season tickets to the Phillies, and he has extra tickets tonight. And we thought maybe you’d want to take your son to the game. And that was awesome.
I remember another nurse, Sharon. When I was in the waiting room, I saw a woman who was having trouble walking. And Sharon walked up to her, and didn't say, “Can I help you walk, can I offer assistance?” She said, “Can I walk with you?”
And then kind of grabbed this woman’s arm, and the woman was happy, and they were walking along. Itt was such a friendly way for her to offer help. And there was Claire, who was hilarious, and you know, told us the story of accidentally basting her Thanksgiving turkey in Pine-Sol. Cause she had done a late-night shift and didn’t realize what she was doing, and she woke up and said, “oh my goodness!”
You don’t laugh that much when you are in treatment, it’s kind of tough. I see my wife feeling really bad, and you know, Claire could always get us to laugh.
And one thing I also remember is, so we’re going through this long treatment, and the nurses are suggesting that Mia and I go to this conference for young cancer patients and their caregivers. When we were there, a patient advocate spoke who had been through the same treatment as Mia. This woman said, if you are going through two and a half years of treatment, you need to come up with projects. A project will distract you, a project will give you focus, and help you get through this. Mia decides she's going to write in a journal. Our son Jack, who was about five and a half at the time, decided his project was going to be playing 200 days of Wiffle ball in a row. And my project was, I was going to write a book about small acts of kindness that transform people's lives.
It started with the acts of kindness when Mia was going through treatment, from the people at Penn, from our friends, from our family members, from strangers. Acts of kindness that got us through that tough time. I started writing other people's stories. Stories about a small act of kindness that helped save a life, and then stories about the butterfly effect of an act of kindness.
The treatment was two and a half years, and I don't remember a ton about it, which is probably a good thing. But I remember those little actions that give you the strength to carry through.
When Mia began treatment, I thought of myself as the primary caregiver who’s got to make sure everything works. What I quickly learned is that caregiving takes a village. It was everyone who was playing a part, it was our family, it was our friends, it was our physician, it was the nurses, it was the parking attendants. Everyone helped with that experience, and every bit of their help added to our strength to get through it.
For all of you out there who helped us, and there are many, many of you, thank you.