A 5-year-old and a hospital credentialing coordinator have become best friends through a common love for sticky note window art.
Meyer Mixdorf, 5, was a patient at Children’s Mercy Kansas City in Missouri in May, when he made friends with Johnna Schindlbeck, a Truman Medical Centers employee who works across the street.
His mom, Liz Mixdorf, said that Meyer had been diagnosed with brain cancer in December 2020 and was taken to Children’s Mercy to receive treatment.
Mixdorf and her husband got sticky noted in the shape of a smiley face on Meyer’s window to lift his spirits when he was five months into his treatment and had a difficult stem cell transplant.
However, they never expected to receive a winky face in response to the smiley face a day later. When they noticed the Post-it message, they and Schindlbeck sent emojis to each other for a few days.
“It was a really entertaining, uplifting activity that Meyer looked forward to,” Mixdorf said. The family decided to “up the game” and “do something fun,” according to Mixdorf, and changed their window design to look like Nintendo’s Mario.
Then again their artwork was met with an equally elaborate rose by Schindlbeck. Meyer and his parents worked through other iconic characters, including Iron Man, Batman, the Minions, and more. Every design was met with another one right back.
Schindlbeck had no idea she was communicating with a pediatric patient and recruited office colleagues to help with the more complicated sticky note designs. She even went beyond by ordering specific colors online and accepting donations from friends.
“It was just fun in the very beginning,” Schindlbeck said. Schindlbeck and her Truman Medical Centers crew realized it was a patient after she saw a sign Mixdorf taped to the window that said, “Thank you [heart] mom.”
She was able to catch a glimpse of Meyer through the window after that and understood that he was staying on an oncology floor. They carried on the sticky notes routine for some more weeks while Meyer stayed at the children’s hospital for his last three chemo treatments.
It was a challenge because Meyer couldn’t see his four siblings or spend time with other patients in person as the hospital’s playroom was temporarily closed due to COVD-19. Schindlbeck and the Mixdorf family members kept a social distance but found Meyer’s room each time he moved, though through the sticky note designs he left on his window.
July 13, Meyer’s MRI “came back clear” and he was discharged from Children’s Mercy, and had a chance to meet Schindlbeck and the other Truman Medical staff. “I knew it was him as soon as I saw him and just started crying,” Schindlbeck said, “I think Liz and I just both had tears.”
The whole interaction was not only uplifting for Meyer but also for Schindlbeck, who has lost two older brothers to cancer. “That was kind of a personal connection for me,” Schindlbeck said.
She said, “I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I really, I really feel for him and his family,’ because I know what that feels like to have to walk away at the end of the day or, you know, whatever the case is and you’re just relying on the hospital staff taking care.”
Now Meyer is back home with his family in Siloam Springs, Arkansas, and is enjoying the outdoors. Mixdorf wants to remind people that “you don’t know everybody’s story” and that detail should be considered if “you see someone having a hard day.”
“Kindness really does go a long way,” Mixdorf shared. “And I’m learning to be grateful for the little things.” Schindlbeck too is astounded that a pack of Post-it notes could bring her and Meyer together. “It didn’t take any time, it didn’t take much thought.”
“It just took a kind heart and somebody paying attention to what somebody else might need,” she said. “Just be there even when you don’t know what to do or know what to say,” she added.