Beads honor children facing illnesses - FOX 35 News Orlando

FOX Medical Team

Beads honor children facing illnesses

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ATLANTA -

Much like the Army gives awards for extreme bravery and courage under fire, thousands of Georgia children facing serious illnesses are earning their own badges of honor. They're called "Beads of Courage."

Olivia Harvey, 10, started out with a string and enough beads to spell out her name. With each treatment, each test, each surgery she earned a new bead. Pretty soon, Olivia could look down and see just how far she had come.

"I have, like, over 300 of them," Harvey said.

Each bead represents a piece of Olivia's story.

"She was born with multiple congenital heart defects," said Olivia's mother, Melissa Harvey.

"I had two heart surgeries, one when I was six months old and one when I was 9 years old," said Olivia.

"It was tough because being at the age of nine, you kind of start to understand, but not really.  So she had a lot of questions,' Melissa Harvey said.

Stephanie Dill was there with answers.

"I met Olivia about three years ago," Dill said.

The two got to know each other at Camp Brave Heart, for kids with heart problems.  Stephanie is a child life specialist at Children's Healthcare.

"I love working with kids, and this just made sense," Dill said.

Stephanie helped Olivia make sense of what she was facing at Children's.

"It's hard to put into words what happens here. And what these kids go through every day," Dill said.
    
Stephanie wears her own Beads of Courage.

Olivia says Stephanie was the one health care worker who helped her most as she faced her second heart surgery last summer.

"She just told me, it was all right, 'Cry if you want. It's fine. You're going to be OK,'" said Olivia.

"I don't even think Stephanie realizes how much she helped Olivia," said Melissa Harvey.

On Tuesday,Olivia wanted to say thank you to the woman who stood by her through it all with a very special bead of courage.

Olivia nominated Stephanie for the Beads of Courage "Olympic Spirit!" bead. They were carried by members of the U.S. Olympic Team in London and are awarded to healthcare workers with Olympic-size hearts.

"It's probably one of the biggest moments, I would say, in my career. Just to know, somebody tell you what a difference you've made -- it's just more than I could ever ask for, " Dill said.

The idea behind Beads of Courage is to use the beads to remind children how resilient they are. If they're facing a treatment that frightens them, they can look at their beads and see how much they've already been through.

Beads of Courage works with about 30,000 children, including the kids of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta like Olivia.

Click here for more information on the Beads of Courage program

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