(HockeyStL) - The Blues had a busy day off the ice on Friday. Instead of practicing, players took time out of their days to visit local hospitals and interact with patients.
The Blues plan a day to visit hospitals annually. Every year, the team splits into groups, which then make their way to area hospitals. This year, they visited three hospitals: St. Louis Children’s Hospital, Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital, and Ranken Jordan.
Caleb Betts, a 15-year old patient at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, was one of the patients visited by members of the Blues. Betts has pancreatic problems and as a result, he and his family have made the trek to St. Louis Children’s Hospital at least once in every month this year. Betts’ stays at the hospital are typically between 11 to 14 days in length. He had no idea he would be getting a visit from three Blues players Friday.
“It was a complete surprise,” said Lisa Betts, Caleb’s mother.
Lisa said that Caleb was disappointed Tuesday when Rams and Cardinals players were at the hospital, but failed to make it to the floor Caleb was on. That disappointment vanished when T.J. Oshie, Jay Bouwmeester and Carlo Colaiacovo made their way to his room Friday.
“(Today) more than made up for (Tuesday) night,” Lisa said.
David Backes, Magnus Paajarvi, Adam Cracknell, Jordan Leopold, Brenden Morrow, and Alex Steen were some of the other players that participated in Friday’s visits. For patients like Caleb, it was a way to forget about their less-than-ideal situations.
“I can tell you from spending so much time in the hospital the last couple of years that sometimes a smile is hard to find due to pain,” Lisa said. “But the moment that (Caleb) saw them and they came to his room, that pain was gone for that time. (His) smile lasted even after they left. They have no idea how much they touch some of the kids.”
The Blues signed a Christmas card for Caleb, posed for a picture with him, and were very engaged in their conversations. Lisa said that their intrigue in Caleb’s words was genuine.
“They were very interested in what Caleb had to say,” she said. “I think they asked him as many questions as he did them.”
The players did the same with many patients in each of the three hospitals they visited. Caleb, who has played hockey before, had the opportunity to converse with the players about many topics, including the sport. The excitement from the day was still present even after the players left.
“Later that day, Caleb was telling the doctor ‘my pain is back, but I can’t stop smiling.’”, Lisa said.
The doctor checked Caleb’s pulse, which turned out to be up a bit.
“That’s because I’m still pumped up from today,” Caleb told her.
It wasn’t just Caleb who got the one-on-one time, though. Lisa said the players went into the room of each patient they visited, providing exclusivity and a chance to interact with each patient.
"It's two hours of our day and we're going to be able to brighten the days of some of these kids who have really done nothing wrong,” said Backes on the Blues website. “They're here just by bad circumstance. Hopefully they can have a glimmer of hope and get out of here and home for the holidays."
That glimmer of hope and excitement followed the players wherever they went on Friday afternoon. Caleb was one of several patients interviewed by the players. Those interviews will be shown on the jumbotron during Saturday’s game against the Ducks. It was just another way the Blues were able to brighten some of the kids’ days.
“It's awesome,” said Paajarvi on the Blues website. “I love the visits, especially for the children's hospital. It really is cool to see the smiles that you can (get) just by showing up. It's pretty cool to have that ability and it really gives you perspective on life. I really enjoy it and it's good for us. To get that smile, that's worth everything."
Caleb and his family are hoping for a cure to the illness that requires the teen to keep making returns to the hospital. It’s not the place any of them want to be, but it was a bit easier to be a patient on Friday, at least for a couple of hours.
“I can never say enough thanks to someone that does that for your child,” Lisa said. “If you’re in the hospital in pain and can have a smile for a few hours, that is huge. I have to say the players’ smiles were just as big walking through that door.”