A young girl with leukemia spent her long days in the hospital looking out of her window at the building site across the way. And on one special day, she got a an incredibl surprise from the construction workers that she loved to watch so much.
That little girl is Vivian Keith, a now 3-year-old who lives with her family in Arnold, Missouri. In February 2015, however, Vivian’s mother, Ginger, took her daughter to the hospital because she hadn’t been acting herself. And after running some tests, doctors sadly came back with the news that no parent dreams they’ll ever hear.
Tragically, Vivian was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. As a result, the doctors sent the Keiths to St. Louis Children’s Hospital, where Vivian has been receiving treatment ever since.
Lymphoblastic leukemia is the most common type of kid’s leukemia. The cancer is aggressive and alters white blood cells, which are the cells that are responsible for fighting off the body’s infections.
After her treatment began, little Vivian spent much of her time in an isolation unit. In fact, the toddler couldn’t leave the hospital room at all, and anyone who wanted to visit her had to wear a gown, gloves and a mask before entering the room.
To pass the long hours spent in isolation, then, Vivian would sit at her window and watch the progress of a nearby hospital expansion under construction. Mom Ginger says that her daughter would wave at the workers, and it became her habit to wait in the window until one of the workers waved back.
“We’ve always watched the construction, from day one since we’ve been there,” Keith told Today.com. “Vivian likes to hang out in the window and play with her figurines.”
Fortunately, the window in Vivian’s room has a wide ledge, perfect for propping the tiny patient up with blankets and pillows to watch the goings-on outside. “She likes to wave and we watch the crane,” said Ginger. “And sometimes we get a wave back.”
The building under construction was part of the hospital’s expansion plan, in partnership with Barnes-Jewish Hospital. It was a massive construction built of steel beams, and its progress captivated young Vivian, and likely provided a welcome relief from her treatment and solitude.
Vivian even got her own construction helmet to wear while she watched the men below. So when, one day in July 2015, two of the construction workers saw little Vivian waving from the window, they naturally began waving back.
But they weren’t just saying hi – they were desperately trying to get Vivian and her mom’s attention. In fact, Ginger noticed the workers’ frantic waves, and when she finally saw what they were trying to point out she was overcome with emotion.
On one of the steel beams, the construction workers had spray-painted “Get well soon” in large letters. The men who created the message, Greg Combs and Travis Barnes, said they did it to help comfort and encourage little Vivian.
“We’re the two guys up on the building that the crane brings beams to, so we’re pretty close to her window,” said Combs. “She was waving at us and we were waving back and forth and this went on for a day or two.”
Combs said he was thinking of his own children when he came up with the idea to write the message to Vivian. “One day I radioed down to one of the guys on the ground and said, ‘Hey, write ‘get well soon’ on this next beam.’”
“It was so sweet,” Ginger told Today.com. “I know she’s not the only one they were waving at – a lot of kids play in the window. It just means so much. That they’re taking the time, that they’re doing this for the kids.”
Combs and Barnes didn’t know just how meaningful that relatively simple gesture was to the Keith family until they had the chance to meet them. Yes, they were allowed to visit Vivian once her health improved and she was released from isolation.
Bearing armfuls of toys, Combs and Barnes visited Vivian and her parents in the girl’s room. Vivian may have been shy during the visit, but her parents were overjoyed. “It was so sweet,” said Ginger. “It’s hard for Vivian to grasp the extent of it, but we know.”
“It was awesome,” Combs said of the experience. “Just to see how something so little made her mom and dad so happy. That’s when it hits you.”
Plus, to show its gratitude, the Children’s Hospital gave a shout-out to the construction workers on its Facebook page. “Look closely,” it posted. “It’s an order from the crews to our patients who have a view of the site out their windows: get well soon!”
The hospital expressed its thanks, as did mom Ginger. She told ABC News, “I know they’re working really hard, but it was really cool what they did for all those kids and for Vivian.”