Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The future

A note about the beautiful Pastiche bracelet: It was a gift from about a dozen of my dear friends in Doha, Qatar.
They said,  "the pink represents your love for Isabelle, the blue represents your love Sebastian, and the silver represents our love for you."  I love it and it's meaning.  I chose to wear it in this photo session as it
beautifully helps to complete the illustration of our family;
Isabelle, Sebastian, our precious third child, Richard, me and our extended family of friends & relatives.
Photo credit:www.petitlili.nl
We are beyond grateful to be expecting a little girl in the coming weeks.  Just like her sister and brother before her, she is already perfect in our eyes.  Once again, we find ourselves without words to describe the ways in which we look forward to meeting her, embracing her and welcoming her to the world.  This little girl, this precious baby girl who we are eagerly awaiting has already brought so much joy and hope to our life.  Along with her brother Sebastian, they have pioneered the way, keeping us looking forward, reaching forward, and moving forward.

Pregnancy after loss is nothing short of terrifying.  It takes nothing to worry to me these days, but already she does her best to ease my mind with her active kicks & stretches as if to say, "don't worry mama, I'm great!"  Thank you baby girl.  But still, we welcome any and all prayers of health and wellness!

As you may realize, the coming weeks & months not only bring us the joy and delight of welcoming our third child, but the anniversary date of having lost our first.  This is not the circle of life I could have ever, ever imagined.  One thing we've noticed over the past 10 months is that life "highs" are heavily weighted by the aching "low" of not having Isabelle here to share them with us.  She should be here to welcome her little sister.  She should be here to enjoy in big brother/big sisterhood with Sebastian.  These days have been heavy; a twisted root of fear, grief, joy & hope.

Together with Richard and Sebastian, we want nothing more than to spend the next couple of weeks (or three, as accurate as due dates go!) inward, together as a family unit, peacefully yet eagerly awaiting the arrival of the newest member of our family.  So with that in mind, I'm signing off for a bit.  We will be back with news and updates when the time feel right.  Book deliveries are set through Isabelle's 4th birthday, and we will of course continue to keep you updated with those.

But for now, we will just be.

Thank you, each and every one of you, for your continued support and love.

With love,

Kelley & Richard

Friday, March 23, 2012

The present

May 8 - in the tulip fields at Keukenhof
I miss her.

Of all of the emotions, feelings, fears and hopes that undulate in between, it begins and ends with the palpable bottom line: I miss her.

Her daddy misses her, her brother misses her, we all miss her.  It's hardly a strong enough phrase.  We see how Sebastian is drawn to slightly older children, challenged by them in size, vocabulary, physical skills and can't help to wonder how it would be if his big sister were with him now.  We see how her little girlfriends in Doha have aged from precious babies and toddlers to gorgeous little girls, and wonder how she would have grown as she approaches her 4th birthday as well.  We miss her at mealtimes, at bedtime, in the mornings, in the car, in the garden; every moment of every day is anchored by the fact that we wish she were here with us.

I have not chronicled every painful turn on this journey of grief over the past 10 months.  In part, because there is no vocabulary large enough to adequately express how I'm feeling when the seasons turn without her, what it's like to run my hand over her red leather mary-jane shoes, or put the silver dipped cast of her hand that was taken in the hospital in the palm of mine.  There is no way to express it or to explain it.  It's a pain that you can touch, that grabs your jugular, that doubles you over.  But mostly I haven't written about the moment by moment blows of the past months because I have no desire to relive what we've survived, even if it were revisiting it through words on paper.

May 15 - playing at Great Grandparent's home

We have come so far, yet we have a lifetime further to go.  From the beginning Richard and I set out to do our best not to get stuck in the whirlpool of grief, the injustice of it, the what-should-have-beens...  And crumpled in tears on the floor after we saw our daughter in flesh for the last time, we made a promise to ourselves, to each other, to Sebastian, to our future children - and to Isabelle -  that we will not allow this tragedy extinguish us. For me, my magnetic north far before even meeting my amazing husband and having our children, has always been to mother & wife with joy and love.  That hasn't changed - it is my greatest joy and my greatest achievement.  I will not be a miserable mother, wife, person.  And this has been the gravitational pull that has gotten me out of bed every day to make big, hot breakfasts for my boy(s), to set aside my grief when playing and focusing on Sebastian, and has me doing everything possible to take care of the growing baby we're soon to meet.

May 16 - Just 24 hours before...playing, running up and
down their new slide, wrestling with Grandpa...
This journey has come with bad days, very sad days, challenges, and physically gut wrenching moments.  Richard nor I had ever really experienced death before this.  We've had to learn how to grieve and how to make sense of our new perspective on life, on the world, on the chaos within it...the unfairness within it.  We have had to brace ourselves for holidays and special events, only to realize the worst is when you're packing to go home from said event or putting away the few holiday decorations that you managed to get out, breaking down in disbelief this event just came and went without her.  As for the holidays themselves, there is so much ramp up, so much adrenaline and distraction by others who are sharing the moment with you that it keeps you from fully feeling the acute pain of it sometimes.  By far the worst moments are when you least expect it; hiding tears behind sunglasses as you walk down grocery isles alone when she should be next to you pushing her toddler-sized cart, putting on a brave face when a person asks you how many children you have, or catching yourself using the size 6 diapers for your child that were from an open pack of Isabelle's.

May 16 - same evening, practicing "Jazz Hands."
She was meant to start dance classes that August.
As for the enigmatic, ameba called grief, it is my belief that it can engulf you if you don't somehow channel it.  It will never leave you, only change in shape and size.  It doesn't mean you can't be happy again, it doesn't mean you can't laugh again, or still strive for the goals you always had.  It means you have to keep it in check - and that I suspect is different for everyone.  For me, that has large in part been Bubbles for Isabelle.  Richard mentioned at one point in the early days of our shock and sadness that we should do something special for Isabelle on her birthday.  And from that conversation, I found focus and something within which to pour my grief.  Every situation and person is so different but for me, I could not sit still and let the enormity of our loss eat me alive.  I had to harness this overwhelming loss and pour it into something. Bubbles for Isabelle, and everyone who has been involved or contributed to it, has helped me to grip grief with both hands like handlebars on bicycle and steer it, rather than it steer me.  My hope is that one day our children can come up with creative ways to celebrate their sister's birthday each year through annual Bubbles for Isabelle projects.

Exercise and sleep.  A week or so after Isabelle passed away, Richard and I spoke with a grief therapist.  I remember very little actually being helpful from that conversation - perhaps it was too soon or simply because it wasn't what we needed. But I do remember him saying, "you must exercise and you must sleep."  I appreciated such practical, straightforward advice.  And upon returning to Holland I sought out a personal trainer and Richard started up with a couple soccer leagues.  We continued to eat well and do our best at sleeping.  There were days in the beginning when all I could do were simple floor stretches while my face was wet with tears.  Oh dear, my poor trainer had no idea what he was getting himself into when signing on!  The training has come and gone and come again and gone again, as first trimester pregnancy had me exhausted and nauseous, and then winter holidays, and now the final weeks before our newest addition arrives.  But the training was helpful - it got me out of the house, was at times a vehicle for emotion (again, my poor trainer!) and it helped me to sleep. We continued to eat healthfully and just did our best to control what we could.  We bought the Angelcare AC1100 (we actually have three - one for Sebastian, one for the new baby and one for a back-up!).  This has been hugely helpful in sleeping.  It's a video, sound, temperature and most importantly, movement monitor.  It came on recommendation from someone whose 2 year old also passed away after going down for sleep.  (It never ceases to shock me that others have endured such similar tragedies as our own).

Hilversum Heide - where we go often
Surprisingly, being in Holland has been a helpful factor in working our way through the this past
year.  I cannot bear to imagine what it would be like if we were still in Doha, where Isabelle spent most of her life, where every turn is marked with her history.  We had only moved to Holland a few months prior to suddenly losing Isabelle and had not yet built up a large network of local friends, which on the outset you may think is a disadvantage.  However, it has in some ways forced us to face the pain without distraction.  We live in the beautiful Dutch village of Laren with fields and miles of trails just steps from our house.  It feels (to us at least) like a slow, peaceful existence, which is what we've needed.  The earth and the space (both literal and figurative) have been helpful as a place to go to reflect and process what happened to Isabelle, what has happened to us.  We go to the "heide" many weekends as a family (it's a very Dutch thing to do on a weekend morning - lots of families are out and Sebastian loves it) and I sometimes go alone during the week when Sebastian is at nursery.  In the space and quiet of our daily life here, not only in the heide but in Holland generally, it's given us opportunity to really think and talk about what we're going through each turn of the way.  While we welcome and love the visits from friends and family, I really think the quiet of our days has helped (to force us) to process our feelings and not avoid the very difficult days of grief that one has no choice but to go through eventually.

May 17 - Morning of, playing outside (she's in front and
Sebastian is in the grass on the left).  Again, taken with the iPad
having no idea it would be one my last photos of her. 
We will always physically ache with the longing to have Isabelle back. We are still learning how to get through our loss and go on to live a happy life.  We're learning, trying, to laugh again, to enjoy again, to look forward again...without feeling guilty.  One of the many things Isabelle taught us, is that life can change in a second and to make the most of every moment.  And I think of Sebastian and our future children...  They will one day look back and ask questions about losing their big sister.  I want to do my best to lead by example that a person, a family, can move forward from tragedy; to live out the lessons Isabelle has taught us.  They will no doubt face rough patches in life - hopefully nothing like this - but the last thing I want for them is to think a person or a family cannot recover from difficult times or giving up is an option.  What kind of lesson is that?  It is not easy.  Even though at times it feels we’ve lived a lifetime since May 2011, this is all still very new to us and we're still figuring it out.

And finally, my husband.  We have gone through something unimaginable and more than ever - more than I ever thought possible - I am overwhelmed with love, respect and gratitude for the man I married.  Steady and strong, strong and steady; he always has been and continues to be.  With wise perspective he is open, transparent, sensible and loving...  We have been fortunate that our journey has been side by side along the way.  I understand that is not always the case and I don't take it for granted, not for one second.  I'm so grateful it has come naturally and not been another thing to work on.  Again, there are not enough words.

I think I mention a few times, "making sense of" what happened...  Making sense.  Ugh - making sense how my child could be a bouncing, happy toddler one evening, to "baking cupcakes" for me the following morning, to eating her share of dinner that evening, to having a seizure & arrest that night, which eventually took her life?

How on earth do you make sense of that?

May 17 - Play pretending to bake cupcakes. That is
her in the bottom right corner, and I wonder now if she
was feeling sensitive to the sunshine (a symptom of meningitis)?
The wondering, the questions, never stop.
I may forever seek answers to the “how could this have happened?” And to be honest, I find it my prerogative to search and seek as long as I need to find more information on what happened in my little girl's body that night.  I have read countless articles on meningitis, meningoencephalits, febrile seizures, viruses that can penetrate the blood brain barrier... I have spoken to countless doctors quoted in medical journals speaking on such topics.  I have had doctors show me diagrams and explain to me in detail what unfolded in her body, as difficult as it was to see and hear.  Most of these doctors, if not all come to think of it, have suggested at some point that I should accept what happened and not continue to seek more answers because there may not be any.

To which I respond, "Would you?  Tell me, would you? Knowing there might be more information out there related to something that took your child's life, would you just...stop?"  Of course not.  Then we carry on.

Their intentions are good.  The likelihood that we will get any more information than we already have is slim.  And in the end, it doesn't change anything - our little girl is gone.  I can't even believe I write those words.  Continuing to seek answers does not mean that I am not "accepting" what happened to us, which would rightly be cause for concern.  I am simply a mother who will not rest until I know we've done everything possible to understand fully and completely what took our daughter's life.  What will it mean should we find out which virus it was?  Will it give us closure?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  But if there are answers out there, you can't expect a mother not to go the distance to find them. Even though I know that no amount of understanding or information about what happened will right this wrong, it doesn't feel right to stop at this point. So I won't.

To this end, we are currently in the process of having her paraffin blocks (what they use in autopsies) sent to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center for further testing to see if they can identify which virus ultimately took her life.  They have one of the largest laboratories for this kind of testing, so hopefully we will get a bit more details.

In the end, all that is and all that ever will be, begins and ends with the fact: we miss her.  We miss her with every fiber of our being.  And we always will.  

We just miss her.  

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The past

In addition to Isabelle's bench at the MU Women's and Children's Hospital, the room where she was treated was also dedicated to her.  When her grandparents and uncle were there for the TJ's Garden groundbreaking ceremony, they were able to take pictures of her room plaque for us.

While I'm glad they could be there on our behalf, I'm very glad we weren't. These pictures alone bring up emotions from the worst days of our life; taking me back to the hours and days when a mother's mind goes from believing in the best to being engulfed by the worst.

That door, the nurses desk outside the room, the space between when I asked the doctor on the first night after Isabelle had been admitted and was (in my state of shock) stable, "how do parents recover from this?" meaning nothing more than 'how do they recover from such a fright?' not doubting for a second at that moment that Isabelle would be fine. They were going to mend her - that's what doctors do.  Of course they would...  After all, I was playing with her in the yard that morning, she napped next to me that afternoon, she ate dinner a few hours before I stood in that very doorway...  She was obviously going to be okay - this sort of thing doesn't just happen.  It can't.  Not to her.  Not to us.  When the doctor replyed, "At first it's the siblings that keep you going, then it's one day at a time, then one week at a time, and eventually it gets easier."

I was left dazed by such an answer. I remember laying next to Isabelle in the hospital bed after that, trying to make sense of it all. The reality just beginning to set in...  Why the EMT responded "no, not always" to my question "she's going to be alright; people recover from this sort of thing, right?" when he was trying to clear her airways...  To the doctor at St. Mary's Hospital in Jefferson City speaking to me as though it was a miracle they started Isabelle's heart again (in stark contrast to my thoughts of "of course you did")... To the nurse manually pumping oxygen into her lungs as they were preparing to helivac her to Columbia who, when I asked, said Isabelle's eyes were opening wide at times because of brain activity (small seizures), and I said "that's good right? brain activity is good" and she whispered "yes" in a manner that I now see was weighted in pity...  To the security guard at the ER in Jefferson City saying "I'm sorry" as we raced out of the door to meet Isabelle in Columbia where she was being helivac'd, to which I defiantly thought "don't tell me 'sorry' - everything is going to be alright"...  To being frustrated at the time by the number of friends and relatives who were boarding planes...  * Why were they coming?  Everything was going to be alright!  Why others were crying but I was just waiting...waiting for her to wake up and be Isabelle again, waiting to get any amount of good news, waiting to understand why on earth our child seized, aspirated and had an arrest upon going to sleep (which we later learned via her autopsy that it was caused by a viral infection in her brain leading to meningoencephalitis).  Waiting desperately to have Richard by our side...  Everyone seemed to know the fate we were dealt - but me.  This is one of the many discerning realities about shock, about experiencing the unthinkable.  In hindsight it makes you angry - to know you were the only one believing in something that...wasn't.  It wasn't until the following morning when I asked the nurse, "when will the medicine wear off?" thinking, or rather hoping, there was some kind of anti-seizure medicine being administered forcing her into a comatose state, who responded with heartache "there is no medicine - this is her." That was the first time I began to really absorb the gravity of our situation.

These pictures are about all I can handle as they so vividly bring up those surreal, horrific minutes, hours and days when the world as I knew it became no longer.  And these pictures are the closest we will ever be to that room, on that floor, in that hospital. Ever, ever again.

Our gorgeous, strong Isabelle gave us two more days and nights to be by her side before she gently passed away in her own time as I was rocking her in my arms.  I may never fully understand how this is our reality.  I may never understand why bad things happen to good people.  I may never know why that aggressive, fatal virus chose our adored daughter.  But I do know that she was loved beyond measure and her life, as tragically short as it was, was a vibrant, happy life.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

* We were very grateful to be surrounded by friends and family.  Friends from New York to Portland, from Hawaii to Chicago, from Arkansas to Germany and all places in between, dropped what they were doing, boarded planes or got in cars, and rushed to our side without a second thought.  They filled my parent's home on air mattresses and helped bear the weight of our grief.  Some took nearly exclusive care of our precious Sebastian while we were in the hospital while others went shopping on our behalf so we'd have something to wear to our daughter's Celebration of Life memorial...  Other's cooked and others helped in who-can-count-the-ways....  And each and every one of them helped to hold us up in those very surreal, horrible, days.  It is at times overwhelming how many wonderful friends we have in our life, who - no matter the time or distance - is there for us when we need them.  You know who you are and we love you so much. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

7th set of books delivered!

Emily & Ali with the staff at St. Mary's  

One of my best friends from college and another from childhood came together to deliver a set of Bubbles for Isabelle books in Indiana. Thank you Emily and Ali for all that you did to organize this delivery!

Here's what they had to say:

Thank you for letting Emily and I be a part of this.  I feel very honored.  Emily did an amazing job at selecting a location.  When we took the tour, I was very moved and touched by this operation.  St. Mary's does an amazing job with poverty stricken children ages 3-5.  Many of the kids have also experienced a traumatic event in their life. 

I was so happy to be a part of this and I love doing something special to keep Isabelle's memory alive!!!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Announcing our 7th Facility - St. Mary's Child Center in Indiana

Bubbles for Isabelle goes to Indiana!  Our 7th book collection will go to St. Mary's Child Center in Indianapolis, IN.

St. Mary's Child Center:

- Impacts preschool children in poverty – who are at life and learning risk—with the highest quality cognitive, creative, social, physical and emotional learning experiences that will transition into a foundation for life-long success.

- Integrates highly effective professional educators with a proven learning philosophy.

- Uses qualitative measures to show impact.

- Is accountable to the children and families served, stakeholders, contributors and the early childhood learning community.

St. Mary’s Child Center’s Preschool serves 215 children at three locations.  The Preschool Program is of the highest quality.  We are accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), licensed by the state of Indiana and hold a Level 4 designation (the highest possible) in Paths to Quality, Indiana’s quality rating program.

The children at our schools are three to five years old.  The vast majority of the children live in poverty.  We receive referrals from physicians, social service agencies, schools, First Steps and families. We provide 1:6 adult to child ratio, transportation, social services and a nutrition program. The Preschool at St. Mary’s Child Center is inspired by the work of the early childhood educators in Reggio Emilia, Italy.

St. Mary’s Child Center’s Educational Outreach initiative provides professional development to educators about the work we do at St. Mary’s and, in particular, the Reggio philosophy and approach.  We provide seminars, tours, consultations and presentations to educators.

St. Mary’s Child Center is an agency that is supported by United Way and the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

St. Mary’s is headed by an Executive Director who works closely with a Board of Directors.  The Board provides direction, carries out the Strategic Plan and is responsible for raising revenue to provide financial support.

St. Mary’s Child Center was founded 1961.  St. Mary’s Child Center receives funding from United Way, the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, individual donations, corporations, grants and program fees.

One hundred percent of St. Mary’s proceeds go directly into day-to-day operations.

Every person involved with St. Mary’s Child Center – from full time staff to volunteers to Board members, Godparents and all donors – are passionately committed to giving the young children we serve a fighting chance in life!

No child has ever been denied services at St. Mary’s Child Center for financial reasons!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

TJ Garden groundbreaking at MU Women's & Children's Hospital

On March 1, the MU Women's and Children's Hospital had the groundbreaking ceremony for their children's garden, called TJ's Garden. If you recall, there is a bench in this new garden dedicated to Isabelle. Isabelle & Sebastian's maternal grandparents and uncle went to the ceremony and John (their grandfather) was invited to take part in the official groundbreaking.


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Theoskepasti School for Children with Special Needs in Pafos, Cyprus

Tuesday, 6 March 2012
Book hand-over to the Theoskepasti School for Children with Special Needs in Pafos

The heavy rain storm did not deter us from our programmed book hand-over at this special school!  A special thank you goes to Fred, our CEO who came all the way from Larnaka to be with us.

We were welcomed by  Mrs. Maria Iacovides, the Headmistress of the school.  Just as soon as we set up the books on a classroom table we were joined by a group of lively children with huge smiles who were eager to look through the books – one little girl named Alexandra chose the story of Tarzan and another chose Aesop’s fables!  They completely filled the room with their excitement and enthusiasm and the friendly atmosphere they created was so contagious!!  There was happiness and huge smiles all around!  Fred shook hands with several young boys and girls and in an instant he had made himself new friends. 

Mrs. Maria thanked the staff of Hermes Airports for their generous gift of books and said she was certain that it would enrich their own collection of books.  She made a point of telling us that the children love having visitors – even without gifts!  I believe that our visit does NOT hold true a saying “beware of Greeks bearing gifts” – our small gift of children’s books in memory of little Isabelle whose inner and external beauty matches these beautiful and pure psyches has given us so much more than what we have been able to give to them!  We are so privileged and lucky to have been able to experience such feelings.

The school is called “Theoskepasti” which means “sheltered by God” and this is an apt name for this really special school!  Prior to the school tour we were given by Mrs. Maria we were all invited to Savvas’ birthday party at which we thoroughly enjoyed singing together with all the children and the teachers the classic “Happy Birthday” song to him in English as well as the Greek version of it  called “Chronia Polla”!

We were impressed with the school facilities.  The classrooms were fully equipped and the children’s work displayed on the walls was absolutely fantastic!  The playground too was fabulous but due to the rainy weather it was temporarily out of bounds.  We were shown to the therapy room which captivated our attention as they explained how they use colour, movement, sounds and touch to relax the children.  The music room also made an impression on us as the not-so ‘conventional’ musical instruments used there make sounds of the wave touching the shore and the wind blowing on the trees – again these sounds of nature are relaxing which team-up well with the elements in their therapy room. 

Fred expressed his thanks to the headmistress for accepting the books from the staff of Hermes Airports and went on to say how much joy it gave us to be able to share these special moments with the children and the staff of the school.  Lastly he conveyed his thanks and appreciation to the headmistress for her kind hospitality, the fun time we all had and more so for the exceptional work done by them on a daily basis!

We left with an ‘open invitation’ to visit whenever we like!  This is what making new friends means ……

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Ayios Spyridonas School for Children with Special Needs in Larnaka, Cyprus

The second out of 3 sets of books have been delivered in Cyprus.

Here is what Helen Colocassides had to say:

"Today, Wednesday 22 February 2012 was another very special day for the staff of Hermes Airports!  The handover of the books to the children at Ayios Spyridonas a Special School for Children with Special Needs was filled with much joy and pleasure!!!"

"The headmistress of the school, Mrs. Anastasia welcomed us with smiles and happiness.  She thanked Mr. van der Meer and the staff of Hermes Airports for their kind contribution and paid a special tribute to little Isabelle in that her untimely and sad loss has been instrumental in bringing bring joy and love to so many other children reaching out to the shores of our little island of Cyprus.  To our lovely surprise the children continued the positive momentum and atmosphere by singing some beautiful popular Greek songs specially rehearsed for us which they performed to perfection!!!  Happiness was beaming through their faces and their singing and chirpiness was so catchy that we were tapping our feet and even managed to join in the singing too (including Fred!!!).  We were told that the first song was in tribute to the Deputy Headmistress who is from Thessaloniki, which was about a young man from Athens who met and married a beautiful young girl from Thessaloniki and therefore from an Athenian he joined the ranks of the people from Salonika; the second song was a happy song about the Carnival festivities which is an upcoming and important event this coming weekend here in Cyprus and the third song they sang to us is a popular Greek song about being happy from morning to night and enjoying every minute of it!!!"

"When the performance was over we joined the children in one of the classrooms where the books were put on display for them to have a look at and to choose the books that they would like to read.  The response from the children was so positive that one could easily see the excitement in their eyes and their immediate attraction to the books was so apparent that they were picking up one book after the other and were flicking through the pages enjoying the colourful pictures!  Such a beautiful sight of happy and bright children!"

"The headmistress went on to tell us about the various activities that the children enjoy within the school premises as well as outside the school.  Some children could boast of great achievements, for example young Michalis won the Gold Medal for cycling at the 2011 World Summer Games in Athens and little Irene would be lighting the Special Olympics flame in Cyprus which is destined for the Special Olympics flame in London later this year!  We were also told that the children had made arrangements to stay in the mountain village of Platres in order to visit the Ski Slope on Mount Olympus on the Troodos mountains in order to practice and enhance their skiing abilities for their participation in next year’s Winter Special Olympics in South Korea.  All we could do was to continue admiring these really special children as well as the excellent work being done by the headmistress and her staff!  WOW!!!"

"We all left the room quietly so as not to ‘disturb’ the children who were still engrossed in their book review without of course forgetting to thank the headmistress and the supporting staff of the school for their warm welcome and the extra special entertainment we received.  We wished them good luck in the great work that they are doing as well as our best wishes for continued success."

"This certainly was a special day for us at Hermes Airports … and we hope that through this experience we will be able to enjoy and share many more such moments with these lovely children in the future.   It was such a lively and friendly environment that it brought tears of happiness to our eyes.  Wonderful!"

Archbishop Makarios III Children’s Hospital in Nicosia, Cyprus

Delivering books at the Archbishop Makarios III Children’s Hospital
The first of 3 sets of books have been delivered in Cyprus...

Here is what Helen Colocassides had to say:

"It is four o’clock in the afternoon of Tuesday, 21 February 2012 on a clear but ‘nippy’ winter’s day in Cyprus.  Staff from Hermes Airports have delivered the books collected by their staff to the Children’s Hospital Archbishop Makarios III in Nicosia.  The books were delivered to the state run school and nursery which is housed in the main children’s hospital on the island to help the children who need to stay there for ongoing treatment, keep up with their school work as well as to provide leisure activities for them after morning school lessons are completed."

"We were told that the classroom set up for the ‘resident’ children of the hospital was recently refurbished by the Cyprus Electricity Authority and it was clear that the facilities provided at the school are sufficient and comfortable with bookcases filled with both general curricula school books as well as leisure reading books for the children.  The books provided by the staff of Hermes Airports were graciously welcomed by the young teacher Ms Eleni Demetriou and she thanked our staff for taking this initiative and added that that the books certainly will do a lot to enhance the school’s library which will give endless reading pleasure to the children.  In a matter of minutes, a young little boy and a little girl were the first ‘customers’ to borrow books for reading!  That was really a ‘magic’ moment because one could already see the sparkle in the children’s eyes, so we are certain that the efforts made will fulfill the purpose of this humble gesture."

"Ms Eleni Demetriou conveyed the regrets of Mrs. Ioulia the head teacher of the in-house school and nursery for her inability to join us but through Ms Eleni she extended her gratitude and appreciation to the staff of Hermes for the kind donation of children’s books."

"The event was made even more exciting for us as  we were joined by our CEO, Mr. Fred van der Meer and Sandy his wife.  Fred touched our hearts when he told us that he was not with us to represent the CEO of Hermes Airports but as a father and more so a grandfather to honour and celebrate the life of their beautiful little grandchild Isabelle.  The purpose of this book drive and offering is to allow us to pass on joy to other children and especially to children who are less fortunate.  Fred went on to thank all the staff at Hermes for their generous contribution and for making it happen!  Sandy also expressed her appreciation and happiness for the good results emanating from the contribution and efforts made by Hermes staff.  On behalf of the staff of Hermes Airports everyone was happy to be able to give something back through the Bubbles for Isabelle Book Drive which has touched everyone’s hearts in their quest to spread love and happiness around the world!!!  What an achievement!!!"


21 February 2012

Representation from Hermes Airports headed by the CEO of the company visited the Children’s Hospital Archbishop Makarios III in Nicosia where they presented children’s books for the sick children staying at the hospital.

This specific initiative was taken by the staff of Hermes Airports following the sad loss of Mr. van der Meer’s granddaughter Isabelle approximately one year ago.

The staff of Hermes Airports collected tens of books which were presented to the in-house and state-run nursery and school at the children’s hospital in the presence of an obviously emotional Mr. van der Meer, the grandfather of little Isabelle.  

“I am not here as the CEO of Hermes, I am here as a father, grandfather and we are very happy that the staff, through Helen, took the initiative to do something for children that have lesser possibilities.”

The teacher of the school, Ms Eleni Demetriou thanked Hermes Airports and said:

“We thank you for your contribution.  It is with great pleasure that we accept your gift and in turn we hope to be able to help bring much pleasure to the children."

In memory of little Isabelle, more books will be presented to other schools for children with special needs at both Larnaka and Pafos.


21 February 2012

The CEO, Mr. Alfred van der Meer and the staff of Hermes Airports collected children’s books that are being presented to sick children at the Children’s Hospital and to Schools for Children with Special Nees.

First stop today is the Children’s Hospital, Archbishop Makarios III in Nicosia which is being followed by a book handover to the Special Needs Children’s School Ayios Spyridonas in Larnaka and the next stop will be at another School for Children with Special Needs in Pafos.

This initiative is dedicated to the memory of two-year little Isabelle, the granddaughter of Mr. van der Meer who sadly lost her life due to a serious virus last May.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Thank you birthday girls!

Not one, not two, but THREE separate children's birthday parties have requested to have donations be made to Bubbles for Isabelle in lieu of gifts over the past few months.  What an incredible act of generosity on both the parent and child's part!

Thank you Ally, Ava & Darby!  Your special day & generosity has resulted in many books going to children who need them most.  

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Bubbles for Isabelle goes global

Our first trip to Cyprus...
Isabelle & Sebastian's grandparents - Richard's parents - live in the Mediterranean country of Cyprus.  Freddy, their grandfather, runs the airports there and his incredible staff have taken it upon themselves to launch a Bubbles for Isabelle book drive for a few well deserving, under-resourced childcare facilities there.
...Isabelle was 5 months old

So far, 66 books are going to the Ayios Spyridonas School for Children with Special Needs in Larnaka, 65 books for Theoskepasti School for Children with Special Needs in Pafos, and 64 books for Makarios III Children’s hospital in Nicosia.  That's a total of 195 books!  Stay tuned for more updates as these books are handed over to these wonderful institutions.

 Helen Colocassides from the Hermes Airport Ltd. writes:

"I take the liberty to speak on behalf of all the staff at Hermes Airports, and we are really happy to have been able to ‘give’ even in this ‘small’ way that we have.  It’s the least we could have done in memory of your beautiful little girl Isabelle.  Personally, I remember when little Isabelle was born and the joy that it brought to Fred and Sandy <Isabelle's paternal grandparents>.  I am certain that all the happy memories you hold in your hearts will continue to bring you joy and the fact that your book-drive initiative has spread to so many other hearts in their wish to help children, especially children who are not as ‘lucky’ as others, will keep the glow alight in our hearts too."

"I should add that the staff of Hermes Airports were very touched by your strength and every book that was brought in, was brought in with love coupled with a purpose of adding some joy to other children."

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As a side story, the first time we traveled to Cyprus was for Christmas 2008 when Isabelle was 5 months old.  We were standing at the front of a packed plane trying to sort out our seats because we were running late and were the last to board.  Despite the impatience throughout the packed plane, we heard this collective "Aahhhhh" among everyone in the plane.  We look to the sea of smiling faces and to no surprise, there was Isabelle was peering over my shoulder flashing her million dollar smile to the crowd and stealing everyone's heart.  She was such a ham and could mesmerize the room with her charm.