Bead of Courage

McLane Children’s Hospital patient Matthew Young, 13, of Temple took his time deciding which bowl to select Tuesday. The bowl will be used to collect his Beads of Courage, which are given to pediatric patients as they undergo medical procedures. 

Last week, pediatric patients at McLane Children’s Hospital Scott & White and specialty clinic got the chance to select a one-of-a-kind wood bowl with a top that they can use to store the Beads of Courage they’ll collect as they undergo medical treatments.

Beads of Courage was started in Arizona 11 years ago and is now found in 240 hospitals. It provides an innovative arts-in-medicine supportive care program for children coping with serious illness.

“We’ve been working on getting the Beads of Courage program up and running for a while,” said Ruthie Davis, manager of Child Life services and volunteer services at McLane Children’s Hospital – Baylor Scott & White.

The hospital will purchase the beads and woodturners provide the bowls.

The patients will initially receive a string with beads that spell out their first name and then will collect more beads as medical milestones are reached.

To start, the program will be available to NICU, neonatal intensive care unit, and hematology and oncology patients, Davis said.

The beads the youngsters will collect are solid colors with each color representing a different procedure.

“A black bead represents a poke, so if a newly diagnosed leukemia patient came in and got two pokes that first day we would give them two black beads,” she said. “Yellow signifies an overnight stay. If a patient were in the hospital for a week they’d get seven yellow beads.”

Red beads signify a blood transfusion, a star represents a surgery.

“The child or parent will keep a log of what all has happened during their stays or visits to the clinic,” Davis said.

There are patients that will have three, four or five strands of beads and they know what every bead represents.

“They can tell you ‘I’ve had 16 surgeries, I’ve had eight blood transfusions, I’ve been in the hospital for 98 days.’” she said. “Their story is told through their beads.”

Woodturner groups support Beads of Courage by making boxes in which the strands of beads can be stored.

The local woodturners reached out to McLane Children’s about starting the program. They had been donating their bowls to Dell Children’s in Austin for the past few years.

Kenneth Mays, one of the woodturners, said about 40 people, belonging to different woodturning clubs, were involved in the initial donation of bowls.

“We’re the Brazos Valley Woodturners out of Waco, but we have members from Killeen, Temple and Waco,” Mays said.

The reward is seeing the children select their bowl and providing a positive moment in their day, he said.

Mays’ 9-year-old granddaughter contributed a bowl to the selection, her contribution is decorated with goldfish on the lid.

Each bowl the group brought in was unique.

There are bowls topped with tiny football players finials, decorated with Jolly Rogers and flowers.

There are bowls shaped like a bee hive, an apple, a daisy and Cinderella’s pumpkin carriage.

Matthew Young, 13, had a hard time making a selection, inspecting the items as he walked past tables covered with bowls while dragging his IV pole behind him.

“I just can’t decide,” Matthew said.

Matthew was admitted to the hospital the week before and said he didn’t think he would get out anytime soon.

Ken Taylor of Morgan’s Point Resort will have his 80th birthday in January and has been woodturning since high school.

“It takes two to four days to complete a box,” Taylor said.

After the hospitalized children made their choices Tuesday, some of the boxes were placed on a cart to take to patients in the hematology and oncology clinic next door.