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‘That day meant everything to us'

Araina Roderick hadn't felt the warmth of the sun, hadn't inhaled fresh air, for 30 days before Gundersen staff orchestrated a special event for her earlier this summer.

Araina, who has spina bifida, remains hospitalized in Gundersen's La Crosse Hospital for an ulcer on her back. To heal, she must remain on her stomach or back for weeks more. It's a tough restriction for a 14-year-old and a family that travels the state to participate in walks that benefit those impacted by spina bifida.

On Aug. 9, staff learned Araina and her mother couldn't make a benefit walk in Madison the next day because of the hospitalization. Instead, the family planned to honor the walk by wearing matching shirts in the hospital room. "I thought, 'We can do one better. Why don't we can hold our own walk here?'" says Jenna Pellowski, clinical nurse leader fellow, Pediatrics.

"And they took it from there," says Araina's mother, Shannon Roderick. Gundersen staff decorated Araina's bed with gold parade float fridge. They made posters to hold during the walk and recruited others to join. They got a portable speaker to play the soundtrack from Araina's favorite movie and dressed in costumes, says Rachael Kaiser, child life specialist, Pediatrics.

"When I proposed this idea, no one really questioned it," Jenna says. "They just jumped in and started planning and coordinating, working through roadblocks to make it possible."

That afternoon, for 30 minutes, no one focused on how long Araina has been here or what she must overcome before she can go home. For those 30 minutes, our staff were by her side during her own spina bifida walk on Gunderen's La Crosse Campus.

"The float fringe on her bed flapped in the breeze and caught the sunlight as we walked," Rachael says. "Araina had a great time instructing the staff to keep an eye out for shiny pennies and cool rocks. She loves gemstones and rocks."

Back in her room on Level 5 of the Hospital, Araina shows off a lucky penny, a memento from that day. Her mother says they're blessed by providers who practice love alongside medicine.

"That day meant everything to us," Shannon says.

That day was made by possible by a team that understands that we take of the whole patient, Rachael says. "It felt so good to be able to prioritize what was most important to the patient and make it happen," Jenna says. "Things like this feed my nursing soul. It makes me honored to work for an organization that truly lives its mission to Enrich Every Life."

Every day, throughout the many locations that make up Gundersen Health System, staff deliver world-class care plus a little something extra – we call it Love + Medicine. If this story inspires you to share a story of your own go to

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