42. To a lot of people that number may not have any significance but to sports fans it can have several meanings. For many sports fans it means one person: Jackie Robinson and all the positive changes he brought to the world, not just sports. Others may think back fondly to Mariano Rivera trotting in from the bullpen as Metallica's "Enter Sandman" blasts from the public address system. A basketball fan may be reminded of the days of Scott Williams wearing #42 for the Chicago Bulls while he was winning NBA Championships alongside another former University of North Carolina Tar Heels player. At Ranken Jordan the number 42 has a different meaning. That number represents the approximate average length of stay of a patient.
Think about that for a minute. Forty-two days in a pediatric hospital. Six weeks. Many of the kids start their hospitalization prior to that at an acute care hospital so their stay in a hospital is actually longer than that. When you start thinking about that long for a kid in a hospital it makes the amazing work done by the entire hospital staff even more impressive. Not only are they helping the kids heal physically and transitioning from hospital to home, but they are helping them heal mentally as well. This is where the model of Ranken Jordan plays such a vital role in helping the children heal. While the kids may be there for an extended period, they do not just sit in their hospital rooms. Each morning when they wake up they are out of bed, out of their room, and actively being a kid.
This is one of the many ways that golf comes into play for the kids at Ranken Jordan. With the extended stays many of them have, being introduced to golf will do multiple things for them. To begin with, it gives them a regular diversion from the day-to-day life at the hospital. The kids know when "Golf Day" is and they look forward to it every week. Not a week goes by when I am not hearing stories about how the kids have been practicing at other times outside the regularly scheduled weekly clinic. Those stories fill me with joy as it illustrates the positive impact golf is having in their lives.
Being involved with golf also accomplishes something else for the kids. It allows them to set goals and work towards those goals. Once the goals are reached new ones are set and the kids get right to work on those. Many of the goals they set may not be specifically related to golf but golf becomes the vehicle that allows them to achieve their goals. Some of you may remember the story of thirteen year old A.J. that was told in the article written by Joe Strauss from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in December 2012. When A.J. came to golf the first day in his wheelchair he boldly stated that he wanted to walk. Week after week he did his regular therapy and came to Golf Day in his wheelchair yet he kept talking about hitting golf balls while standing up. A few weeks after he told us his goal he gave his family and all of us that were there an early, very emotional Christmas present as he golf out of his wheelchair, walked to a putting green, made a few putts, and walked back to his wheelchair.
While A.J.'s story does not happen often, those are the types of stories you will hear from the doctors, nurses, therapists, and other staff at Ranken Jordan thanks to the miraculous work they do. Most of our junior golfers will set more traditional goals like wanting to hit the driver straighter or make more four foot putts. But occasionally we hear from the kids about how they want to use golf to get better physically, emotionally, and mentally. I do my best to soak in as much as possible every time I am at Ranken Jordan with the kids. Unfortunately my small mind will not allow me to remember everything. But I do remember far more from my time there than I forget. Many of the things I have seen and heard are permanently etched in my memory. Golf can be the game of a lifetime for anyone who will allow it to be. For these kids it not only is the game of a lifetime but it is helping them get their lives back.