Keeping kids connected thanks to one patient’s dream

When young patients move into Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford for treatment for cancer, transplant surgeries, or other acute conditions, their academic and social lives become secondary to their health needs.

To bridge that gap, the Omar’s Dream Foundation is working with Packard Children’s to keep kids connected by donating laptops and other electronic devices that enable them to stay in contact with their classrooms and curriculum while in the hospital for extended periods of time.

For 14-year-old Angela Michaud, this gift is opening new doors.

Since starting her freshman year of high school in fall of 2015, Angela has taken classes online to allow her more flexibility to complete schoolwork while maintaining her leukemia treatment regimen.

When Angela came to Packard Children’s in May of this year, the Omar’s Dream Program provided her with a laptop to continue pursuing courses in biology, Spanish, math, English and — her favorite — history through film. Angela also receives support with her online assignments from the hospital school, which is operated by the Palo Alto Unified School District and serves hospital patients and families in both a traditional classroom setting and at their bedside.

Omar's Dream

Beyond using the technology for school, Angela is spearheading an online effort to connect and engage with other teen cancer patients far and wide. “I’m building a website that will be a source of information and a place where others like me can ask questions about cancer treatment,” Angela said. “We all have different ways of coping with things, and I thought it would be great if we had one place where we could all share what’s working for us.”

“This program is a perfect example of the way we provide for the individual needs of our patients,” said Pam Simon, director of the Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer program at Stanford, which works to serve the unique needs of cancer patients ages 15 to 29. “Omar’s Dream allows us to not only help patients continue their schooling, but the technology the program provides is opening so many avenues for patients’ education-building to further evolve beyond the classroom.”

The inspiration for this program was Packard Children’s patient Omar Hassan, who at just 9 years old, had a dream. Diagnosed with leukemia at a young age, Omar spent years in and out of the hospital receiving treatment. Following a bone marrow transplant shortly after the start of fourth grade, he was required to recover in isolation. This meant staying out of school for extended periods of time — away from his friends, teachers and classwork.

An eager learner by nature, Omar devised a plan. If he couldn’t be at school, he would bring school to him. Together with his family, he coordinated with teachers back home to join class discussions, music lessons and school assemblies via teleconference, using a webcam on his laptop. He was able to see and communicate with his friends and teachers every day, allowing him to keep up with both his schoolwork and all the hot fourth-grade gossip, despite being confined to a hospital bed.

Sadly, Omar lost his battle to leukemia in 2012, but his dream of remaining connected to life outside the hospital lives on through the Omar’s Dream Foundation, started by his family to provide electronic devices to patients so that they, too, can connect virtually with their classrooms back home.

Omar’s Dream Run will be held on Sunday, October 16 from 10 am-2 pm in Hellyer Park in San Jose. The event will raise funds to further the mission of Omar’s Dream Foundation — to enable hospitalized and medically supervised children to remotely attend school and stay connected with their teachers and classmates.

Discover more about our Adolescent & Young Adult Cancer Program, or call (650) 498-9404.


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