Hello, my name is Juliana Rodriguez. In January of 2019, I was diagnosed with Chiari (Key R E) Malformation, which is a condition in which my brain tissue was expanding into my spinal canal. In March, after many doctor visits and tests, I had to undergo a Craniotomy and was hospitalized for two weeks at Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles.
The recovery in the hospital was hard, which I did not expect. During this recovery, I was in pain and uncomfortable. It was a bit overwhelming. I had a few setbacks that required me to be admitted back to the hospital which was discouraging. But, it was always comforting to have my family there. The team of nurses and my Doctor were also very supportive and made me feel very well cared for. They were so helpful in my recovery.
It was during my 2nd admittance to the hospital that the child life services coordinator, Sandie, gave me a distraction bag. This distraction bag had a journal, a pen, a wand, and other items to help me pass the time and gave me something to do when I was feeling up for it. It made me feel happy to receive this small gift.
A couple of months after my surgery, I decided I wanted to make a difference in the lives of children and teens that are hospitalized. I wanted to help children with distraction bags, hoping it would help them, just like mine helped me. That is when I decided to start a non profit organization named: Be Strong You're Loved.
I wanted to create and donate bags that would be filled with things that would keep the children distracted and make them happy while they're recovering. I made my first donation in 2020 and was happy to expand my donations in 2021. I have a vision of growing my non profit so I can bring joy to children that are hospitalized to help them and their families through that experience. I am very grateful to share that I am now healthy and have been fully released by my neurosurgeon to live life as a normal teenager. Be Strong You’re Loved is an outcome of my journey and I am excited to continue to give to children and teens that are in similar situations.