Montefiore Children’s Hospital, located in the Bronx, hosts an annual prom for their teenage patients every year, offering them a temporary escape from their illness by providing them an opportunity to feel like normal kids for an evening.
Although the hospital has a whole mix of children with different illnesses, the majority of the kids, 600 patients in total, have sickle cell anemia, an inherited blood disorder that affects the red blood cell’s ability to delivery oxygen throughout the body. The amount of pain these children experience is unimaginable.
The prom was a great night; one many of us have experienced but I imagine can only be appreciated more by children who have fewer moments like it. Eleven year old, Alfred, who was sporting a large feather that night and danced up a storm suffers from bone cancer, which is the eighth most common form of childhood cancer. Hans, 16, who pulled around an IV machine the entire night was waiting for a heart transplant, which he has fortunately since received. A group of girls posing for the camera had liver transplants, and one of them a brain tumor.
I didn’t realize what an impact these children would have had on me. They have a strength in their eyes that I had never seen before. It’s incredibly beautiful, inspiring but at the same time immensely sad. The psychology behind sickness is something I have found interesting for quite some time. Emotionally and psychologically I cannot imagine what these kids are going through as a result of their illnesses. The reliance on medication, medication withdrawal, lack of social life, toll on family, as well as academic challenges which worsen when so much school is missed.
I have a personal connection to stories like this, and the reasons are personal. For eight years my younger sister was prescribed antidepressants for depression. During this period the drug had a profound effect on her emotional stability and exuberated her illness, ironically transforming it into something more chronic and making it more difficult for her to overcome her depression. The experience shaped my particular interests in photography specifically the issues I’m drawn to. Having someone you love stunted by illness is a difficult thing to witness. I hope this series of photographs captures the “child” and the “old soul” within these teens who have just began their life and lack so many things we take for granted.