At hospital gift shop, hope is in stock

After months in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) of UC Davis Children’s Hospital, Samantha Torrence and her husband received some disheartening news about their son, Sebastian Chavez, who had been diagnosed at birth with VACTERL association – a group of anomalies affecting multiple systems and organs.

The wooden plaque from the hospital gift shop continues to inspire Sebastian's family. The wooden plaque from the hospital gift shop continues to inspire Sebastian’s family.

“We didn’t think we’d be able to take him home at one point, with everything going on,” Torrence recalled.

But then she saw a ray of inspiration in the darkened window of UC Davis Medical Center’s Pavilion gift shop, which had been closed since March 2020 due to the pandemic.

A wooden plaque in the shop window read: “Take life one day at a time. Enjoy the journey. Live simply.” They were sayings to live by, and words to hope on.

“It was something we needed at that time,” Torrence said.

The sign also featured, significantly, an image of a turtle – which had been a mascot for little Sebastian ever since the couple’s baby shower. Torrence was delighted when the store had its soft reopening in mid-July; the shop (open Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 to 5 p.m.) had an official reopening yesterday (Aug. 4).

“We had to get [the plaque] as soon as the gift shop opened because it was a big thing for us and for Sebastian,” Torrence explained.

With the love of his parents, the care of UC Davis Children’s Hospital expert teams, and his own gumption, baby Sebastian – almost 10 months old – was finally discharged on July 28.

He returned to the family’s Red Bluff home, already filled with turtle-themed items, including a giant plush turtle and a homemade turtle blanket. And the meaningful plaque from the Pavilion gift store has joined the collection.

“We put it in the living room so we can see it every day,” Torrence said.

Its message remains an inspiration for the family, as they make the two-hour trek to UC Davis Medical Center every two weeks for Sebastian’s ongoing treatment and medicines.

The long journey continues, but, as a certain fabled animal has taught us: slow and steady wins the race.

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