Pediatric patient prefers orange and blue memories

Quite frankly, Frank Watson’s summer was a bummer.

The 5-year-old from Urbana spent six days in the Pediatrics unit at Carle Foundation Hospital dealing with what his parents first thought was just a bug bite. A bug bite, though, rarely makes your leg swell like crazy and hurt so much you can’t even walk.

Memories of what turned out to be a frightening staph infection faded quickly when the kindergartner learned he’d be going to Saturday’s Illini game against the UNC Tar Heels as special guest of Carle and Special Spectators.

“It was a really rough summer for Frank. I know he felt like he missed out on a lot—swimming lessons and school field trips—so this really gave him a positive memory to end on,” mom Sarah Watson said.

Deanna Cadena, a new Child Life specialist at Carle, helped during the big event that featured a family tailgate, a Memorial Stadium tour, meeting a host of Illini players, trying on Illini Football gear and even getting to spend time on the field.

“It was awesome for us and for the families,” Cadena said. “We were busy getting families from Point A to Point B, and the kids were super excited.

“It’s amazing to me that we get to be part of seeing our kids outside the hospital and really thriving.”

Frank and his 2-year-old brother Emmett are no strangers to the gridiron. Their dad, Nathan, is the Urbana High School football coach.

In fact, while some young Carle patients were initially shy out on the field, the Watson boys jumped right in with their favorite tackling drills.

“That’s just what they’re used to,” Sarah Watson said with a laugh. “This time of year, though, we don’t do much as family because Dad is always so busy with his team.

“It’s usually just me and the boys much of the fall, so all of us being able to go to the Illini game made it all that much more special.”

In addition to having a great time, she and Nathan gained some important perspective.

“Our experience with Frank was so scary, but as we talked to parents of children with leukemia, epilepsy and genetic conditions, it instantly reminded us how fortunate we are,” Sarah Watson said.

Fortunately, Frank’s fall already feels fantastic.

“Our boys absolutely loved it, and it’s a memory we’ll cherish forever,” Sarah Watson said. “We appreciate it so much and how special everyone involved made Frank feel.”