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Emily the Soccer Star This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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"BZZZZZZZZZ." The sound of my alarm clock was enough to make me jump. I turned over with a groan and stumbled out of my bed. From the second my feet touched the carpet I could tell today was going to be another scorcher. I pulled on my hospital pants and white T-shirt. Although I tried to eat, the butterflies in my stomach won the battle and I e settled for apple juice instead. Today was the day that I was to begin my summer job. I had volunteered at a hospital. Although when I had decided to work there I had been excited, now anxiety about what I would be doing took over.

At the hospital I learned that a most of my job would be to bring patients to their rooms and to perform other odd jobs. On Fridays however, I would spend time in the Pediatrics area, visiting with a small child in the hospital. The first few days spent at my job passed by without much excitement. By Friday, I had forgotten about my date on the Pediatric floor. On that particular morning, I was instructed to head up to meet Emily, a young leukemia patient. I tried to plaster a calm smile across my face while inside all I wanted to do was cry. Even with her lack of hair and an IV in her arm, she mustered the strength to smile and speak with me.

I soon learned that Emily was eight. She loved going to the beach and playing with dolls and she had an older brother named Ryan. She was on the town soccer team and proudly informed me that she had scored more goals than anyone else on her team. With our incessant chatting, that first Friday quickly came to an end.

When I told her I would be back in a week, she begged and pleaded with me to visit on Monday. I couldn't resist her toothless grin and "pinkie-swore" that I would be back after the weekend.

It wasn't long before I was spending my lunch breaks with Emily and leaving the hospital long after my shift had ended to spend time with her in the game room. On days when she felt strong enough, we played soccer, even though it was not allowed in the hospital. It was fumy to see the nurses turn their heads in the opposite direction and pretend not to notice when Emily's infamous and most prized possession, her black and white soccer ball, would fly through the air. On rare occasions, her illness would get the best of her and we couldn't play soccer. On these days I would read her favorite children's books to her or we would play Barbies together on the hospital bed. On one occasion we even cut off Barbie's hair so that she could be Emily's twin."

I came to recognize many things that I admired about her. I was most impressed with her will to live. Not once did I see her shed a tear over the pain I knew she must have been hiding behind those clear blue eyes. In addition, her constant optimism along with her contagious laughter made her unlike any other eight-year-old I had met. She was wise beyond her years, and the incredible physical and emotional strength made her an inspiration to me.

Toward the middle of the summer, her "yuck days" as she called them, began to outnumber her good ones. I can remember a particular day when I arrived in Emily's room to find her in an unusual state, she was quiet and in a deep sleep. After talking to her mother I learned that Emily had been given her life “sentence”: she only had a couple of weeks left.

I went home that evening with a pit in my stomach and a lump in my throat. I retreated to my room without dinner and cried for hours. I felt so helpless and would have given anything to take her pain may, but all I could do was hold her hand as she vomited from the medication being forced into her tiny body. Even more, I hated this disease that had wreaked havoc within her and cut her life far too short. It was then that I decided to make the best of next few weeks with Emily.

Even in her last week, Emily brought joy into the lives of those around her. She laughed and giggled with all who came to visit and marveled at all the cards and stuffed animals she received. One evening after dinner we played soccer; a special occasion because it was something she hadn't had the strength to do in quite some time. Concluding the night with her favorite book, Cinderella, I once again "pinkie-swore" that I would be back the next day for another round of soccer .She gave me a the biggest hug that her frail body could muster.

The next day I sprinted down the corridor to see my favorite patient, but instead was greeted by her mother. Through her tears she told me that Emily had passed away earlier in the morning. Her mother told me how wonderful I had made Emily's last few months, but it didn't help to ease my aching heart. Just as I was about to leave, her mother handed me an envelope with my name written in a red crayon. I knew immediately it was Emily's handwriting because of the backwards "s" scribbled across the front. Opening the envelope in the car, I found a drawing of us playing soccer. One the top of the paper read "To my favorite soccer player." The tears that I so desperately tried to hold inside sprang from my eyes. But it was at this moment that I realized that I had been truly blessed by the presence of this amazing eight-year-old. Even today when I start to forget about those lessons, I take that folded drawing from my wallet, look at her tiny body, clad in that teddy-bear hospital gown and can only smile back at that toothless grin that has taught me about life, love and friendship.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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