This article is adapted from an essay written by Liz Holzknecht, a freshman at Cornell University majoring in Astrophysics.
I was on the 12th floor of Lurie Children’s when I saw it. The drawing was hanging in a hallway. The hand of an innocent 7-year-old girl, Veronica, had drawn simple figures in black pen: sandcastles, fish, the sun and a smiling child labeled “me” in a bathing suit. Attached to the girl’s arm the young artist had drawn an IV pole, complete with a medicine bag and monitor.
The caption read: “I want a beach in the hospital, it has a lot of light, I could build castles and play in the sun.” It was followed by the artist’s name and age.
There was something heartbreaking about the juxtaposition of Veronica’s drawing. The simple, pure art of a child seemed so foreign in the hallway of the hospital. The hospital tour guide’s voice barely registered in my mind. How could a 7-year-old feel that her self-portrait would be incomplete without an IV pole?
I am a rock star. I have wanted to be one since the day I first heard the song “Rainbow in the Dark” by the band Dio and picked up a guitar. For years I had cast my dream aside, laughing at how foolish I had been to think that a shy math nerd like me could ever get up on a stage with an electric guitar in her hand in front of 1,000 people. Needless to say, I was shocked when my childhood dream came true.
lt was pure serendipity. I ran into the manager of the local rock band Pulsebeat at the deli counter at a small grocery store in my town. She remembered me from a local music store, and said the band just so happened to need another guitarist. She offered me the job and I immediately said, “Yes!”
For me, Pulsebeat was more than just a band of local teens. It was a band dedicated to raising money for Lurie’s Children’s. In fact, our bass player, Matt Jazwinski, had a pacemaker implanted at the hospital to regulate his heart’s rhythm. We played a variety of fundraising gigs, from concerts to dance marathons, including Lurie Children’s CHICAGO Dance Marathon, and we raised quite a bit of money for the hospital. Although I left the band to go to college, Pulsebeat continues on with that same mission.
As I gazed at the girl in the drawing, everything I had done suddenly had tangible meaning. This is who I was helping. This is who needed me. This is the life I was changing. This is who I am.
The feeling of making a difference is beyond words. To help change the life of another person is a privilege. To be given the opportunity to make a child’s world a little brighter is a gift. To do all of that through music is an honor. You don’t have to be rich and famous to be a rock star. You only need to play so that somewhere a little girl can put a pen to paper and draw her self-portrait without an IV pole.