Letter — Jill Beverlin (1 of 2)
April 19, 2000
Dear Dr. Lange,
I’m writing to share with you our story of our experience with “Josh” and the book I’ll be O.K. Two months ago we were in your hospital for a check-up with our dog, Zeb. As we were leaving, my youngest son (also named Josh) saw one of your “Josh” toys on the counter. We immediately knew we needed one for our family! We do pet therapy on the pediatric floor of UT Medical Center with our dog. I knew the book would be a hit with my patients and that my Josh would enjoy playing with his new stuffed “Josh”!
We never guessed that “Josh” the dog and the book would soon be helping our family in a major way!
Over the spring break our Josh was involved in an awful bicycle accident. While riding his bike he was hit by another child on a bike and suffered extensive damage to his face. His nose was shattered and his left lip was torn completely away from the gum of his mouth. The surgeon that worked on him was clear that the helmet he was wearing saved his life.
Josh was in the care of a friend of mine at the time of the accident. From the moment I received word that Josh had been in a wreck my mind went through all the horrible possibilities of what the extent of the damage may be. I braced myself for what I might see when I walked through the hospital doors, and I began to pray.
I will never forget the moment I first saw Josh in the emergency room. One hand held a blood-soaked rag and ice bag to his swollen and misshapen face. His other hand and arm were desperately clutching his “Josh” dog as close to his neck as he possibly could get it. That image will be emblazoned in my mind forever. I was overcome with grief from seeing my son look so broken and vulnerable, and at the time I felt immeasurable gratitude to God for the comfort that “Josh” the dog was obviously giving him! (I found out later that our oldest son, Andy, had the presence of mind following the accident to run up to Josh’s room and grab “Josh” the dog before he was taken to the hospital).
During the rest of Josh’s stay in the hospital “Josh” the dog was there every step of the way. When it was time for the IV, Josh refused to let them stick him until he had “Josh” the dog by his side. During the long night after Josh’s emergency surgery our Josh clutched “Josh” the dog to his chest and found a few minutes of sleep here and there with the comfort of his favorite stuffed pet. “Josh” was there on the table during the X-rays and was in “the tube” with our Josh during the excruciating 45 minutes he had to lay completely still while they did an MRI scan of his head.
There were many things that were difficult about the hospital stay. Josh was especially distraught over having to leave the IV in his arm. He wanted it out and he was tired of the tubes pulling and hurting his arm. While trying to talk about why he had to have the IV, I remembered in the book I’ll be O.K. that “Josh” the dog also had an IV. When I mentioned this to our Josh he settled down a little bit and became more accepting of it. He even started playing a pretend game involving “Josh” and the IV tubes. When he would have to get in and out of bed it was always a big deal to get the “wires” (as we started calling them) and the IV stand in the right spot so he could move. This was a painful ordeal, but it was necessary to get him up and walking. After going through this a couple of times Josh started saying, “Mom, he did it again.” Confused, I said, “Who did what again, honey?” Then our Josh said, with the first attempt of a smile that I had seen since the accident, “Josh chewed on the IV wires.” Hence started a ritual that lasted until he was released from the hospital. Every time he had to get out of bed Josh would first look under the covers and say with a sly grin, “Josh, did you chew on the wires again?” This playful game took the focus off the fear of the hurt he knew he would feel from being up and walking.
Our Josh is home now and recovering well from his unfortunate experience. “Josh” the dog continues to be our Josh’s constant companion. He especially provided Josh immense comfort when it was time to have some of the stitches removed from his face. As long as “Josh” could be with him, our Josh knew he wouldn’t have to be afraid. I wish you could see how sweet the two of them look lying cheek to cheek sleeping each night!
We want to express our deepest gratitude for creating “Josh” the dog and for writing such a wonderful book! It truly has been a gift to our family to have these special tools to help us through a difficult and scary time.
There is no doubt in my mind that God’s Spirit stirred our hearts to buy your book that day in February. I pray He has shown you in some way the many people you have helped and will help with the Josh and Friends project.
With profound appreciation and blessings to you,
Jill Beverlin and family
Letter — Jill Beverlin (2 of 2)
May 13, 2002
Dear Dr. Lange,
I wrote you a little over 2 years ago to share with you our family’s experience with Josh the plush-dog. Our son, also named Josh, was in a horrible accident and Josh dog was a key source of support during that ordeal. In my first note I expressed how grateful we are to God for giving us this important coping tool and sense of comfort for our son. I never imagined we would be relying on Josh dog again so soon and in such a major way.
This last fall our Josh came down with a bad case of mono. He went through the typical symptoms of fatigue, weight loss, etc. We knew this was a long illness and tried to be patient as we waited for him to recover. One month turned into two, then three with the symptoms failing to dissipate. The pounds continued to drop off and the intestinal difficulties he was experiencing intensified along with our fears of what might be going on. Seven months and almost 20 pounds later we now know that Josh suffers from ulcerative colitis. This is a life-long disease for which there is no cure and is similar to Crohn’s disease. It has invaded the entire length of Josh’s large intestine. Treatment can range from control of symptoms with medicine to removal of the diseased portion of the intestine to transplants. The doctors have told us that our best hope at this time is to try put the disease into remission with a combination of medicines.
We are extremely grateful to have the definite diagnosis for what has been going on with our son. It was a difficult journey getting there! It is important for you to know that Josh dog has been with our Josh every step of the way.
The fatigue Josh experienced during all of this was incredible. After school Josh would come home, find his Josh dog, and curl up tight with it on his bunk for about two hours each day. He did have some good days in between where the symptoms were at bay and things were fairly normal—but I always knew it was a bad day or that he was hurting without even asking because I would see him carrying his Josh dog around.
The process of achieving a diagnosis was a scary road, but Josh knew a little more of what to expect because of the book I’ll be O.K. When Josh had to have the small intestine X-ray he wasn’t afraid because “it was just like in the book when Josh dog had to visit Dr. Rick.” And when he was hospitalized because his weight and hydration level had become dangerously low he was not apprehensive of the IV because this was something he had done before with Josh dog when he had his accident.
In March Josh suffered a significant relapse. The intestinal symptoms had recurred and he was losing blood and weight again. The order was to take him to UW-Madison Children’s Hospital (his third hospital) for a colonoscopy. Our pediatric GI specialist is a real gem and he was very accommodating of Josh’s request to have Josh dog stay with him during the procedure. We were allowed to stay with him while they were putting Josh under anesthesia, but then we would have to leave. As he was starting to fall asleep I noticed Josh shifting around on the hospital bed—he was making sure he and Josh dog were in a comfortable spot. I leaned over and kissed him and said, “I love you, honey. The nurse will come and get us as soon as you wake up.” Then he whimpered something back. The doctor was curious and asked, “What did he say?” And I told him Josh said, “Don’t let him chew on the wires.” This had him even more confused, so I had to explain that Josh was pretending that Josh dog was playfully chewing on his IV tubing. This was a “game” our Josh had started during a previous hospital stay. This made the doctor smile and he appreciated the story of the book I’ll be O.K. and how Josh dog came to be.
During the procedure while my husband and I were in the waiting room I thought a lot about Josh dog and all he has meant to our Josh. It dawned on me that Josh dog is much more than a regular stuffed animal. When Dave and I had to leave the room—he got to stay. Josh represented our love—the love and comfort that my son needed—going into that procedure, and he enabled Josh to not have to do it alone. At these critical times Josh dog takes on a life of his own and becomes a representation of love and support of his family that isn’t sent to the waiting room.
Our stay at UW-Madison Children’s Hospital was a success and Josh was able to return to school a few days after returning home. While Josh was at school I was in his room straightening up and finishing unpacking. I noticed a book lying open on his desk. I went over to see what it was and it was a copy of I’ll be O.K. It was open to the section of the story where Josh dog is talking about the room spinning from the anesthesia. I smiled to myself. Our Josh’s most difficult part of the procedure had been the after-effects of the anesthesia. Once again he was taking comfort in knowing that his buddy Josh dog had been down a similar road.
Dr. Lange, it is incredible to me how much Josh dog and his story has become a part of our Josh’s life. For a second time I feel incapable of expressing our gratitude for the comfort you have brought our son. We only hope that in some small way you can appreciate what it has meant to all of us. May God continue to bless your work with children and animals!!!! We are anxiously awaiting to hear more adventures of Smudge and Josh!
In his peace and with much gratitude,