Mary Bridge Children’s teams up with Super Lance
If you’ve ever been to the Mary Bridge Children’s Outpatient Center, you’ve probably seen an energetic 4-year-old - that's "Super Lance."Mar 8th, 2022
By Kortney Scroger
If you’ve ever been to the Mary Bridge Children’s Outpatient Center, you’ve probably seen an energetic, smiley 4-year-old dressed in a patch-covered superhero cape handing out trading cards. That’s “Super Lance.”
Lance is on the autism spectrum, and in addition to being a 2022 Mary Bridge Children’s Patient Ambassador, he’s an ambassador for an organization called TinySuperheroes. The company empowers kids with tools, including capes and trading cards, they can use to help communicate about a diagnosis or a disability and share their journey with others.
“Lance is a people person,” his mom, Rachel, explains. “The second he meets new people, he gives them his trading card — it bridges a communication gap for him. That action means you’re now his friend, and he’s comfortable. We see his cards on staff members’ desks across Mary Bridge Children’s.”
Caption: Lance’s trading cards for several occasions including his time in the Paralympics.
Lance’s first visit to Mary Bridge Children’s was via ambulance because he was having trouble breathing.
“They diagnosed him with three viruses and admitted him right before his very first Christmas,” Rachel remembers. “We thought our holidays were ruined — we couldn’t even really leave the room, but the team still made it magical. They took my husband to ‘Santa's Workshop’ and grabbed some donated presents for Lance. The Mary Bridge team made it an amazing two-day stay for us and our son. Little did we know that was just the beginning of our journey with them.”
Since that first emergency encounter, Lance was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder level three, an extremely rare genetic condition called 15q13.3 microdeletion syndrome, as well as focal epilepsy and asthma, all of which have their own symptoms and treatments. He sees so many Mary Bridge Children’s physicians, therapists and specialists in Puyallup, Federal Way and Tacoma that Rachel refers to the hospital and health network as their home base.
Super Lance’s sidekicks: Child Life and Complex Care
Every superhero could use a little help, and Lance is no different. One of his favorite sidekicks is the donor-supported Child Life Services team — especially Olaf, Mary Bridge Children’s facility dog, and his handler, certified child life specialist Kristen Bishop.
The main goal of a child life specialist is to minimize the stress and anxiety children and their families sometimes experience while receiving medical care. For Lance, that means making his space sensory-friendly and following his lead when administering care. Olaf snuggles and petting are also a huge help.
“Lance loves Child Life,” Rachel says. “Olaf is his best bud. They swapped trading cards. Kristen was especially helpful on a day that was hard for Lance. She helped him make it through.”
Another Mary Bridge Children’s program that supports both Lance and his parents is Complex Care.
Complex Care is a growing service for families with children who have life-limiting or life-threatening conditions. Supported by community donations, the Complex Care team aims to empower families to be their own advocates, to strengthen lines of communication and to make their medical journey as seamless as possible. For Rachel, it’s a lifeline to help her navigate Lance’s diagnoses.
“One of the biggest game changers since we came to Mary Bridge is Complex Care,” Rachel says. “Even if we don't have an appointment that month, they still check in and see how everything's going. They’ve helped us through disability benefits and navigating schedules. The fact that they're not only there to help Lance, but also help the whole family is amazing.”
A real-life superhero
Due to the complexities of Lance’s diagnoses, Mary Bridge Children’s will be part of his life for a long time. His journey may look a little different than most, but with Lance at the helm, it’s guaranteed to be super.
"Every day, he fights to navigate and understand the world around him,” Rachel says. “He continuously works hard with the never-ending help of his therapists and doctors by his side. He’s even begun to discover his amazing voice! Even with everything Lance comes up against, he doesn't let a single thing stop him from always being our amazing Super Lance. I truly wish I could be Super Lance-strong.”
Many teams that support Lance and his family, including Complex Care, Child Life and Genetics Services (for 15q13.2 microdeletion syndrome), are funded by community donations. You can make a difference in the lives of children like Lance by visiting supportmarybridge.org.