Bone Marrow Transplant 1,000 Cranes Project

January 01, 2012

Make 1,000 Origami Cranes & You Will Be Granted a Wish...

Sadako Sasaki was at home when an atomic bomb was dropped one mile from her house on Hiroshima.  She was just two years old.  At the time, the toddler was full of energy, full of life.  No one knew what was to come.

Her story is like so many patients who find out they have a form of cancer.  One day they are living life, feeling fine, even sweating the small stuff.  The next day they hear the "C" word, cancer.  Sadako was a normal little girl who went from running on the playground to a hospital bed with less than a year to live.  Until you have first hand experience, no one really knows what that must feel like.  Newly diagnosed patients come to Presbyterian/St. Luke's in Denver for the best quality cancer care possible. 

One portion of the Comprehensive Cancer Program at P/SL is the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit or the BMT unit.  A sterile environment where cancer patients find themselves for weeks, sometimes months.  Their lives changed forever in ways we can't imagine.  As part of the treatment, Cynthia Lockhart has developed the Healing Arts Program at P/SL.  She brings the gift of creativity and distraction into the healing environment.  The BMT patients are literally confined to their rooms while fighting for their lives.  Through the Healing Arts Program, patients can paint, draw, color, write, create, pass the time instead of documenting every minute that goes by.  Cynthia took the story of one little girl, Sadako Sasaki and brought her to life for the patients, families and staff inside the BMT unit at P/SL.

Sadako suffered from leukemia.  While in the hospital, counting down the days of her life, her best friend came in and folded a gold piece of paper into a paper crane.  She explained to Sadako the Japanese legend, make 1,000 cranes and you will be granted one wish.  Sadako spent every minute of the rest of her life folding cranes.  Unfortunately, she passed away after finishing 644 cranes.  Her friends folded the rest and buried 1,000 cranes with Sadako. 

There is much to be learned from Sadako's legacy, but the biggest lesson is that of hope.  Cynthia knew Sadako could provide hope to the patients, families and staff inside the BMT unit of P/SL.  She told everyone about Sadako and the legend of the paper cranes.  Cynthia said, "The message of hope, that by folding these cranes we're all working together.  It wasn't just them going through this illness, it was connecting them with other patients, with the little girl from years ago."  It seemed everyone immediately went to work.  They taught each other how to fold the perfect paper crane.  There were large ones, small ones, even cranes made with such detail the creator used tweezers to make the tiny folds.  The cranes seemed to fly into the BMT unit one after another.  It was a symbol of hope for everyone there, make 1,000 cranes and you will be granted a wish.

It didn't take long for 1,000 paper cranes to appear.  Cynthia then arranged the cranes by color and size and created four large panels, "The seasons of change starting with springtime was the way we laid the cranes out.  The first panel with cranes is the legend of hope because I think of the springtime as new beginnings."

The 1,000 paper cranes are now on display on the walls inside the BMT unit at P/SL.  Four panels, each one symbolizing the seasons of change.  Cynthia said, "As a patient comes through the hallways for the first time they're not really sure what this is all about.  Yes, it is a new fresh start and these panels represent that, springing into hope, going through this journey, there's going to be ups and downs along the way but it will be a journey also filled with peace."

Through the Healing Arts Program at P/SL, the patients who come through the BMT unit will know a sense of peace and hope because of one little girl named Sadako Sasaki.  While her life was cut short, she lives in the hearts of all those who pass through the halls of the bone marrow transplant unit at P/SL.  How amazing that one little girl from Japan would have such an impact on the lives of so many years after her death.  Cancer patients fighting for each moment, find peace and hope in the simple task of folding a paper crane. 

As the legend goes, make 1,000 origami cranes and you will be granted a wish.  What is your wish?