Amy Siple / Danielle Wallace
Bed recipient Sara Cawood, left, with Amy Siple.
When Associate Professor of Nursing Amy Siple learned that several children in Wichita needed glasses but couldn’t afford them, she began looking for people who had the ability to meet that need.
Later, when she learned that the Newman School of Nursing had several hospital beds it no longer needed, she began looking for people who needed the beds but couldn’t afford them.
As a result of her efforts, at least a dozen children have the glasses they need today at no cost to their parents, and 17 people have the beds they need at no cost to them or their families.
In the process, several Newman students also received something valuable – first-hand experience in providing service to those in need.
“I’m just excited to see the students get involved,” Siple said. “It’s so wonderful to see God’s work being done.”
Siple first learned about the children who needed eyeglasses when she led a group of nursing students performing vision and blood screenings at Wichita Catholic schools. While screenings such as these are designed to catch problems, the students found something they didn’t expect – some children had the same problems every year because they were going untreated.
After talking to a school nurse, Siple found the students were indeed lacking the eye exams and glasses they needed because of financial constraints or lack of insurance.
“She [the nurse] elaborated on the situation and the need,” Siple said. “She pointed out one particularly heartbreaking story of a little girl who borrows the secretary’s glasses to take her exams.”
Siple and her husband first called their optometrist, who provided a free exam and pair of glasses for the student. Siple then called other optometrists who each offered one free exam. The project has received a great amount of support from Newman 2006 graduate Emily Becker, O.D., who has provided many free exams to children and pledged to continue offering her services.
While free exams can be a huge benefit to children and their parents, the cost of glasses can quickly add up. To address that problem, respiratory therapy student Patty Roberts approached her parish about organizing a fundraiser to buy glasses for the children. Roberts also secured four vouchers for free glasses from local eyewear retailer SPECS.
The vision service project soon gained the attention and support of other Newman students. Siple said a group of nursing students she had not told about the project heard about it through the grapevine and took up a collection. Siple came to her office one day and found an envelope containing $144 that had been slipped under her door.
“This is about the price of three pair of glasses,” Siple said. “I just love our students.”
Today, several students help manage the project, which continues to provide children with exams and glasses and has even expanded to include dental care.
Siple discovered another service opportunity last fall when Via Christi Health donated 17 hospital beds to the School of Nursing skills laboratory. The school used the beds to replace ones that had been in use for several years. Because those beds were still in good condition, however, Siple set out to donate them to people with special needs who lacked the resources to obtain beds themselves.
With the help of respiratory therapy student Bridget Boyum and other students, Siple contacted social workers, home health agencies and Wichita’s Medical Equipment Recycling Network to identify people with demonstrated need for the beds.
“We found a 16-year-old boy who has severe cerebral palsy and requires total care that is provided by his mother and 60-year-old grandmother,” Siple said. “Because of the boy’s size, they are having difficulty managing this task, and said a hospital bed would be a blessing beyond words.”
Siple and the students soon found 16 others in need of beds, and enlisted the help of several Newman Wrestling Team members to deliver them to recipients’ homes. One recipient, Sara Cawood, lives in Bentley, Kan., with her 14-year-old son Cody, who has cerebral palsy and a rare seizure disorder.
“I’m thrilled,” Cawood said. “We were looking for twin mattresses to stack on the bed to raise it up so we could dress him and care for him more easily, but we didn’t know how that would be for Cody. This is really the answer to our prayers. We’re very grateful.”
Siple said she is happy she could help people get what they need, but is even happier for what the experiences have taught her students.
“I told students, ‘I’m excited to see the people who need them get the beds, but I’m more excited for you. By doing this kind of work, volunteering and helping others, you’re gaining a better understanding of what nursing is all about.’”