John Hirschbeck spent a 30-plus-year career developing a tough, unflappable exterior as one needs to have as a successful Major League Baseball umpire.
Now retired, he was far from emotionless as he and his wife Denise handed out gifts to patient families from Akron Children’s Hospital’s Palliative Care program in the Mahoning Valley.
The Hirschbecks and their daughter Erin recently visited the Beeghly campus representing the Magic of Michael Foundation. The organization was created in the memory of the Hirschbecks’ son Michael who passed away in 2014 from complications of Adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD), a genetic brain disease.
Each year, the Hirschbecks personally deliver Christmas wish list items to families of patients with serious, complicated or life-threatening health conditions. The gifts are purchased from funds raised for the Foundation.
“It just feels good to see the whole family laugh and smile, yet it’s tough because you see what the children are going through,” John Hirschbeck said. “It’s a terrific feeling of giving and helping people who need help, and who need to have a smile on their face.”
This year the Magic of Michael Foundation hosted 5 families from around the Mahoning Valley. The visit was coordinated by the Akron Children’s Hospital Foundation’s Mahoning Valley Development Office.
“There’s not a lot of people in the world like them (the Hirschbecks); we really appreciate them,” said Markitta Jackson of Warren, whose son KeShawn, 4, spent a year in neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) after being born premature and is now battling cancer.
“He’s a fighter, and he inspires me to be a better person,” Jackson said. “I didn’t know what it was like to love someone with special needs before I had one of my own.”
The Drake family of Newton Falls has 3 children. Their youngest, Miranda, 4, is one of just 300 known cases in the world with a particularly rare genetic syndrome that affects her neurological, immune and respiratory systems. She had open heart surgery at 2 months old.
“She helps us see the beauty in everything,” said her mother, Barbara Drake.
Miranda sees 27 doctors between the Akron and Beeghly campuses, and has between 2 and 7 doctor appointments per week.
“To have people you’ve never met like the Hirschbecks care about your families and the struggles you go through every day is just indescribable,” Barbara added.
Palliative care services at Akron Children’s Hospital are designed to meet the unique needs of each child and family. Families can tailor their child’s care, and get as much or as little help as they want.
The palliative care team can involve doctors, nurses, social workers, child life specialists, physical and occupational therapists, art and music therapists, chaplains and other spiritual advisors, massage therapists, dietitians and home health care aides.
For more information about Palliative Care at Akron Children’s Hospital, call 330-543-3343. To donate, contact the hospital Foundation at 330-746-9122.