learned that, even though they have no hair or they’re confined
to a bed in the hospital, sick children have the same emotional
needs as healthy ones.”
to LA from New Orleans to act and got off to a rip-snorting start.
Sort of. “I had a good part in the film Steel Magnolias,”
recalls Aja Sanzone with a laugh. “But then I got left on
the editing room floor.” Since then Aja has left a good bit
of herself—in a very positive sense—wherever she has
gone, including the SMC campus.
basketball as a Corsair for three years,” she says. A damaged
knee requiring surgery nearly ended Aja’s “roundball”
career. “But I bounced back from that and got the SMC ‘Athlete
of the Year’ award,” she adds proudly. And Aja saw her
own resilience—the phenomenal human ability to battle back
against the odds—mirrored in the children she spent the past
summer with as an SMC intern at UCLA Medical Center.
working in the pediatric unit of the Child Development Center,”
says Aja, who plans to become a pediatrician. “These were
pretty ill children: a lot of transplant cases and cancer patients.
And there was one little girl who had AIDS, leukemia and congestive
heart failure. She was living on borrowed time, but she was playing
and doing her arts and crafts as though she would live forever.”
the UCLA medical staff with creating an atmosphere where ill children
could feel comfortable and involved in normal childhood. “They
were very supportive, patient and accommodating to me personally,”
she recalls. “They set up play therapy sessions to help kids
cope. They even have activities for siblings so they will feel
involved,” says Aja. “There’s a strong feeling
among the staff that the development of child patients and their
emotional growth has an important effect on their overall well-being.”