While lying in a hospital bed, Alivia Heinzerling wasn’t thinking about herself or her seizure disorder.
Instead, the daughter of Andrea and Jason Heinzerling was pondering how to help others, according to the Monroe News.
During an overnight stay Aug. 29 at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital on the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor, Alivia was hooked up to a machine that monitored her sleep.
A nurse offered her a backpack, which would allow her to get up out of bed for a while.
The backpacks are used to help patients remain mobile. Children who are hospitalized are connected to machines that restrict their mobility. Many of the patients are able to use the backpacks to move around the hospital and visit places like the craft room.
In this Sept. 17, 2014 photo, Alivia Heinzerling, 7, poses for a photo, in Monroe, Mich., with backpacks collected to help children at hospitals. While lying in a hospital bed, Alivia was pondering how to help others during an overnight stay at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital on the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor, Mich. A nurse offered her a backpack, which would allow her to get up out of bed for a while. “The nurse told her it was the last backpack they had,” said her mother. “As we were watching TV, I could see the wheels in her little head spinning.” Almost out of nowhere, Alivia asked her mom if she could have a fundraiser. Mrs. Heinzerling asked her why she wanted to have one and she said she wanted to collect backpacks for other kids who were in the hospital.
The backpacks contain a battery pack where the machines’ wires can be hooked up to make the patient mobile.
“The nurse told her it was the last backpack they had,” said Andrea Heinzerling. “As we were watching TV, I could see the wheels in her little head spinning.”
Almost out of nowhere, Alivia asked her mom if she could have a fundraiser. Andrea Heinzerling asked her why she wanted to have one and she said she wanted to collect backpacks for other kids who were in the hospital.
The pair launched Alivia’s Backpacks and collected more than 80 backpacks in just two weeks.
Alivia, a second-grader at Monroe Public Schools’ Custer Elementary School, said she wanted to collect the bags to help others.
“I didn’t want the kids to stay in bed all day,” she said.
The 7-year-old was diagnosed in April with epilepsy. Andrea Heinzerling said she noticed her youngest child had been passing out for no particular reason.
“I didn’t know it was a seizure,” she said. “She’d pass out and then wake up.”
Andrea Heinzerling had initially attributed the incidents to things like low blood sugar or anxiety, but when she passed out in March at a store, it was time to get her to a specialist who diagnosed the epilepsy.
Alivia went to the hospital for an electroencephalogram (EEG), because she was twitching in her sleep along with the seizure episodes.
Alivia has been experiencing tonic-clonic seizures, formerly known as grand mal seizures and absence seizures, which cause a short period of “blanking out.”
“The medicine has kept the seizures at bay, but we were still seeing activity at night,” Andrea Heinzerling said.
Her hospital stay was only 24 hours, but Alivia and her mom know that some children are in the hospital for much longer.
Alivia said she wanted others to have freedom to be kids while in the hospital so they “don’t have to hold the wires.”
The backpack collection began Sept. 5. Word spread through social media and people began making donations to the family who would meet donors at Kmart.
Initially, the family was going to collect through the end of the month, but extended the drive through the end of October. Alivia and her mom plan to make the first set of donations during the first week of October and will plan a second dropoff after the drive ends.
Alivia’s goal is to collect 100 backpacks. If they collect a significant amount, Andrea Heinzerling said she plans to contact other children’s hospitals in the area to see if they might need backpacks as well.