Pre-med student comforts family with sick child

ST. LOUIS (KSDK)- There is one thing that Washington University Senior Steven Ignell can never seem to find: Time.

"I feel like I wake up, I go to class and I study almost until I go to bed, "he said. "Midnight, one or two in the morning."

That's not unusual for someone in pre-med majoring in biology with a focus on neuroscience.

"I wanted to see what the hardest curriculum would be like and see how I did," he said.

But when he's not learning about the mathematical theories of gene regulation and signal transduction, he's rolling around in a playroom with some toys often meant for kids three years old and up.

"My children love the personal pal, " LaRonda Griffin said.

Steve is part of the Personal Pal volunteer program at Children's Hospital.

"Personal Pal program came about as special sourcing a need for patients to be able to build a trusting relationship with somebody in the hospital," Child Life Specialist Melody Walters said.

For the past several months, Steve has built that trust with Griffin's children: Xavier, 9, Zakira, 8, Urias, 6, and Jeremiah, 3.

Steve is here at Children's three days a week. On Mondays and Wednesdays he spends time with LaRonda's kids and once a week he spends time with patients.

"You have to love children to deal with the five that I have," Griffin laughs.

And because Steve is focusing on her four older kids it allows LaRonda to focus on her youngest. Nesmaya, 2, has spent most of her young life in the pediatric intensive care unit.

"I deal with it day by day," Griffin said. "A lot of time they've told me she wasn't going to make it."

Born with a rare birth defect called an Encephalocele, she's already undergone six surgeries. LaRonda is here every day which is hard enough but she often has to bring her other children.

"I'm only one person and I can only do so much is so little time, "she said through tears.

So, you don't need a course in Neurocoding to know Steve's mission.

"How are you going to make them laugh when they really don't want to laugh especially being in the hospital," Ignell said.

As you might of guessed, when Steve becomes a doctor he hopes to take care of children. And bedside manner? Well, apparently that won't be an issue.

Sometimes, when LaRonda needs an emotional break, Steve will sit next to Nesmaya and just read. As comforting a presence as her pink blanket.

"I'm so grateful, it means a lot to me, "Griffin said.

You can learn a lot about things like biology and neuroscience in a classroom but it's after class when you learn about life.

"There's no moment throughout my entire week of studying, playing hockey, whatever it is that really eclipses that moment. Where they don't want to leave playing with you," Ignell said.

Personal Pal Steve Ignell, showing that time is never more important than when you're giving yours.


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