by Sherry Posnick-Goodwin
A young girl says she “crashed” off a big blue swing and bumped the back of her neck. “Can I lie down for a while?” she asks tearfully.
A boy who bumped his head on the playground walks in and asks for a SpongeBob ice pack to make him feel better. He is more angry than hurt, complaining that the person who bumped him didn’t even say he was sorry. After a few minutes of holding the ice pack, he trudges back to class.
A youngster with a wiggly tooth strolls in and asks if he can stay for a few minutes until his mouth feels a little bit better.
Toni Belknap gives a warm welcome and hug to the youngsters who visit her office at View Elementary School in Hermosa Beach. “Where does it hurt? How can I make it feel better? Should we call your mommy?”
The Hermosa Beach Education Association ESP member at the K-2 school has been administering first aid — and hugs — to little ones in need at the site for five years. In addition to tending to boo-boos, the health aide maintains the school’s immunization files, handwrites medical cards for students and inputs their information into the computer, administers medication to students, and supports school nurses when they are conducting hearing screenings. She has been trained to administer EpiPens if a child has an allergic reaction or Diastat if a child has a seizure. She also answers the school telephone when needed.
“There’s never a dull moment,” says Belknap. “The kids are so cute, and I love to help take care of them.”
In Toni’s words:
I think I relate well to children…
because I give off a comfortable vibe. I am cheerful. My office is comfortable and not sterile. If a child is bleeding or crying, I try to distract them with a cute picture I have hanging up. I’m a mother of three children. In addition to being trained in first aid and CPR, that’s probably the best training any health aide can have.
One of the children I helped…
had a severe nut allergy and was afraid to even sit at the peanut-free table. He ate in my office for months. Every day I tried to get him to join his friends at the nut-free table, but he was afraid. After convincing him it was safe, I was finally able to get him to go out at snack one day and eat with his friends. He never came back. I was so happy to help him overcome his fear.
Children are so funny…
especially the “frequent fliers.” These are the children who will think of any reason to come down to my office, whether it’s a blister or an invisible bug bite. Sometimes they work in pairs. They will limp in and say “We both twisted ankles” or “We both have a tummy ache.” I will say, “Wow, isn’t that amazing you both have the same ailment!” My job never ceases to amaze me.
One of the funniest things that happened…
was when a girl came into my office crying hysterically. She told me she was going to die because her friend had made her put hand sanitizer in her mouth. Her friends told her people who eat hand sanitizer are going to die because it is poison. I told her she was not going to die; it was like putting soap in her mouth. I explained she might get a tummy ache if she drank the whole bottle, but that she wasn’t going to die. She was so relieved.
One of the kids who really tugged at my heartstrings…
was a little boy who was always very sad and angry when he came in. He just needed TLC. I always talked to him and gave him hugs. Now he is a grade older and so much happier. Whenever I see him he yells “Miss Toni!” and runs up and hugs me. You can’t imagine how it feels to see such a positive change in a child and wonder whether that little bit of extra time I gave him really helped.
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