I have written on occasion here about how CaringBridge brought important news about my nephew Patrick Devlin when he was battling leukemia in 2009 and after he died. I mentioned in my eulogy for Patrick that he was working on his deathbed to finish his Eagle Scout project.
Well, this morning, CaringBridge brought the news that Patrick’s Eagle project is finished. It moistened my cheeks. I share it because many readers of this blog expressed appreciation that I shared Patrick’s story, even though it strayed from the usual topics of my blog.
Here’s a passage from John’s latest CaringBridge update, shared with his permission:
Last Saturday we finally fulfilled his Eagle Scout service project plan, and the story is an interesting one. His plan was to make portable dimming light fixtures available to families spending time in the hospital on Baird Five here in Burlington (the Pediatric in-patient ward). Long time readers will remember that one of the first things I did when Pat was admitted to the hospital was to go to Home Depot and buy a clip light and dimmer so we could set up nicer light and read when it was dark and Pat was sleeping without turning on the fluorescent overhead lights or sitting in the dark for hours. Well, he was planning this project with his Eagle mentor when he died. I picked it up and tried a couple of approaches to realize the idea, beginning with identifying the hospital’s requirements for lights in the rooms. These requirements limited what we could do, and ruled out the system our family had used.
We were able to find portable non-dimming LED lights relatively easily, but that was inconsistent with Pat’s wishes for a dimming light. The entertainment industry uses some of these small fixtures for tech tables and around sound/light boards in order to limit light spill—essentially the exact same parameters we were looking for but with a different motivation. In March of this year, I connected with a salesperson at a local theatrical supply house who checked with a manufacturer of these sorts of lamps about what styles they had. In November of last year they began manufacturing a dimmable, free-standing LED model. It took a while to confirm with the hospital engineers that these units fit their requirements and by the time I got back to the local sales rep, she’d moved on. I started working with another individual and my story resonated on a very personal level with him. He is an Eagle Scout himself and knows what that meant to Pat, and he’d lost an infant about 25 years ago, so he empathizes with Carol and me. He took off with the story and connected with the manufacturer in Michigan.
Here’s where the story takes on a life of its own and the ripples caused in the world by an idea Pat had three and a half years ago while lying in a hospital bed became waves. The husband and wife co-owners of the company in Michigan that makes the lights were moved by the story and decided to donate 20 of the dimming fixtures (the number we had settled on to work on Baird Five). They talked with their employees about what they were doing, and one of their leading tech people happens to be a Scout leader and father of an Eagle Scout. Their troop had lost a scout about three years ago too, and so the story resonated on a deeper level with them too. The Eagle Scout son happened to be working with the company this summer. So, he spent a day assembling the 20 dimming units for donation and the next day members of his troop turned out in uniform to learn where the units were shipping, hear what the back-story was, and to pack them up—they all signed small dedicatory certificates which were boxed with each of the 20 units.
That left us still with a sizable chunk of money that had been donated to the scouts in Pat’s honor still sitting in the bank in Vermont. We decided to purchase as many of the non-dimming units as we could with that money to offer families the ability to choose between the two types of lights. The local theatrical supply house agreed to sell the initial set of units to us at cost and so we were able to purchase over 25 of the units. These lights would be mounted on a clamp that needed to be attached to the light; the others have their own weighted base and stand on their own.
Once in Vermont, we needed to get language for the small identification tags we wanted to put on the units approved by the hospital. The tags read:
In memory of Patrick Devlin 1993-2009
Eagle Service Project – Troop 23 Richmond VT
So, last Friday we had a small gathering of most of Pat’s closest friends in scouting and two of the scout leaders to mount the non-dimming units on the clamps and affix the labels to all the units. It took about an hour to assembly-line the process and prepare the units for presentation at the hospital.
Saturday the three of us were joined by about 20 folks—scouts, hospital staff and representatives from the theatrical supply company—in a brief presentation function on Baird Five at the hospital. We were literally only steps away from the rooms that Pat had lived in for so many months in 2009 and where the idea to change his Eagle service project to providing an alternative lighting option for families was conceived. We thought it a fitting conclusion to one part of the story and a positive legacy to hand off for families who find themselves in a very challenging situation in the hospital. The donation will easily cover placing one or two lights in all the rooms on the ward, and will also cover the four rooms in the PICU, where Pat died.
It’s comforting on many levels to know that a project that he conceived, envisioned and began planning will continue to reach and help folks by shedding just enough light to keep life moving more easily in some of the darkest places of the human experience.
Patrick is an Eagle Scout to me. He was before he died and he certainly is now.
Since I have also written about Patrick’s sister, Kat, I am also pleased to share this update, from the same CaringBridge post:
We had a wellness check in Boston three weeks ago, and the doctor said that she “looks perfect”—any complaints she might have are normal 15-year-old complaints and should be handled through her pediatrician; the transplant is not causing issues that are not already being managed.