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Googly Eyes and Grateful Families

Riley kid Haley Dull

The next time you see googly eyes on a piece of artwork, the Dull family hopes you will think of the Child Life Program at Riley Children’s Health.

This past January, fifth-grader Hayley had a stomach bug that wouldn’t go away. On the third day, her arm swelled up. The family lives in Fishers, so rather than traveling downtown they went to Riley Children’s Health at IU Health North in Carmel. Hayley was diagnosed with Henoch-Schonlein purpurpa (HSP), a type of vasculitis that causes inflammation in the blood vessels. She was admitted to Riley Children’s for five days.

Certified Child Life Specialist Maggie Huffman was an influential part of Hayley’s experience at Riley. “Hayley hadn’t eaten for an entire week, so her spirits and energy were really down, but whenever Maggie came in the room, her face would light up,” recalled Hayley’s mom, Cassie Dull. Maggie learned that Hayley loved art, so she brought arts and crafts supplies. It gave Hayley a sense of normalcy while she was missing art class at school that week. She even began to recognize Maggie’s knock on the hospital room door.

One day, Maggie and Hayley were taking a walk on the unit and they noticed googly eyes on one of the wall decorations. Hayley had the idea to put googly eyes on all of the wall decorations, and Maggie helped her pull off the prank. “It was hilarious,” Hayley said with a giggle. She hopes the decorations are still there to help bring some unexpected cheer to kids like her.

The family expressed their appreciation to Maggie for all of her support, and she told them about ways to support the Child Life program after Hayley went home. When Cassie received a call from Riley Children’s Foundation about sharing their story at a fundraising event, she didn’t hesitate to say yes. She encourages other Riley families to do the same. “Have the courage to share your story because it has such an immense impact,” she said. “You can really influence people that support Riley so that Riley can do bigger and better things.”