If you were wheelchair-bound, chances are, you would not expect to ever be able to play golf again. But with its ‘care beyond the bedside’ model of care, Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital is helping kids do just that, as well as participate in many of their other passions, despite the medical complications that stand in their way.
“We find those natural things that each particular child has a passion for, and we’ll continue to work with them and do therapies designed with that in mind,” says Ranken Jordan president and CEO Lauri Tanner. “We’ve taken kids with major depression and anxiety, and they’re able to just fly and do what they didn’t think was possible.” The golf program is just one of the ways the hospital does this, she notes. “We provide care away from the bedside, where kids are doing what kids should be doing: Our nurses are out with kids on the playground, and going with them to the golf programs.” PGA professional Kevin Corn comes to the hospital’s golf programs 52 weeks a year to provide instruction to the kids, she adds.
To help in this mission, the St. Louis Cardinals Usher Group recently raised the funds to help Ranken Jordan purchase a SoloRider, Tanner says. The one-person golf cart is enabled for wheelchair-bound kids, and is controlled by using the hands. “You can get up next to the ball and twist the seat to the side, and there’s a power lift and seatbelts to help you,” Tanner explains. “You can lift almost to a standing position so you can take the club out and hit the ball. It’s the neatest thing, and it’s giving freedom to these kids so they can do things that other normally developing children can do.”
Kids with other passions—be it music, art, fishing, or other sports— all can pursue their interests, as well, despite medical conditions that are often complex, Tanner says. For example, Ranken Jordan hosts an annual fall Challenger Baseball league, which is free and open to all kids in the community who cannot participate in a traditional baseball league because of a medical condition. “I’ve been a nurse for 30 years, and the things we’re able to do now in medicine are great,” she notes. “We want to show them that they and their family can have a normal life.”
The talents of Ranken Jordan’s young golfers will be on display at the hospital’s fundraising golf tournament on Monday, July 7, at Norwood Hills Country Club. “I’ll be playing with a child from Memphis who was part of the day treatment program and who comes to play every year,” Tanner says. “His parents have taken him all over the country for treatment, but his life changed at Ranken Jordan. And he’s a pretty good golfer. Some of these kids can really smack it—you’d be surprised.”
The community also is invited to learn more about Ranken Jordan this weekend at St. Louis Uncorked, where the hospital is sponsoring the Kid Zone, Tanner notes. “We’ll have a bouncy house, face-painting and a juggler, so stop by and get to know the staff and volunteers.”