Get used to the needles, find the chocolate — child author pens guide to hospital visits

Jasmine Santoyo, 9, will be at her first book signing Saturday in Brossard. She's promoting her first book — a guide to help other kids in hospital.

Jasmine Santoyo is signing copies of her book 'I'm not scared anymore' at Quartier DIX30 Sept. 14

Kids who are frequently at the hospital can get advice from Jasmine Santoyo through her first book. She's pictured with her mom, Cheryl McGivern. (Isaac Olson/CBC)

Nine-year-old Jasmine Santoyo is comfortable being uncomfortable.

Since being diagnosed with a rare blood disorder last year, she's gotten used to the early morning drives to the hospital, she's used to needles and she's used to idling around for hours in hospital corridors.

When she got used to those things, she decided to help other kids who find themselves in a similar situation.

During a two-hour writing blitz last January, she penned her first book, called I'm not scared anymore.

Her first public book signing is at Indigo Books in Brossard on Sept. 14. The book was published in April.

"I'm so happy about people buying my book and reading it," she said.

Santoyo was diagnosed with immune thrombocytopenia purpura (ITP) in May 2018. 

She's been visiting the Montreal Children's Hospital every week or two for blood tests and bone marrow biopsies ever since.

On top of the hospital visits, the fourth grader can't get bumped around in gym class or the schoolyard because her blood doesn't clot properly.

"It's a big disruption to her life," said her mother, Cheryl McGivern.

Passing on her knowledge

Santoyo said that when she first started visiting the hospital she was overwhelmed, and wished people knew how to calm her down.

"Like if they said: 'If you stop crying, we'll get you chocolate,'" Santoyo said.

Now, she's spent enough time at the hospital to find out where to find the chocolate herself — the seventh floor.

"They give you hot chocolate for free!" she said.

It's one of the highlights of her hospital visits, she said.

But lending her know-how to other children who are in similar situations offers her a level of satisfaction that goes beyond the occasional cocoa fix.

Her message to them: "Good luck, you can do it!"

This image, of Jasmine after having blood drawn, appears in the introduction of her book. (Submitted by Cheryl McGivern)

Santoyo will have about 100 books with her at her signing Saturday, and the book is also available online.

The young writer is already thinking up other books to write — not narrative nonfiction, but fun stories straight from her imagination.

She thinks that next she'll write a book about a poor family who live with an elephant, then maybe about two nine-year-olds who are separated, then find each other again. 

Santoyo will be at Indigo books in Quartier DIX30 (9320 Leduc Boulevard) Sept. 14 from 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Her book I'm not scared anymore is also available on Amazon.

Below is an excerpt from I'm not scared anymore:

Hi, my name is Jasmine.

I'm 8 years old and I have ITP.

I need to have blood tests every week.
Santoyo shows off the finger puppets she gets after having blood drawn. (Submitted by Cheryl McGivern)

This is how I learned to not be scared anymore.

You can read the steps to help you not be scared, too.

GOOD LUCK! You can do it!

Step 3: The poke is coming

So the blood technician will put a rubber band on your arm.

It's going to be like a very tight hug.

Then put your hand like a fist then squeeze hard.

Then the blood technician will put their finger on your arm to find the vein. Then they will clean your arm for the poke.

You might hear them counting to three.

This is to let you know that the poke is coming.

But before they put the poke, take a deep breath in and out.

Think about the good stuff.

Step 6: You're done (and finger puppets)

Then they will put a band aid on your arm where they put the poke. They will give you a finger puppet then you're done!

With files from CBC Montreal's Daybreak


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