How Ladybug House got it's name... 

A letter from Suzanne...

Some experiences leave such a powerful imprint on our hearts that they become seeds for something great. Two young men’s faith, love, determination, and strength had this effect on mine and became the genesis for Ladybug House.

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Suzanne Gwynn. I’m just one nurse among many; the face at your bedside holding your hand, caring for your child, caring for you. An R.N. specializing in pediatric, adolescent and young adult hematology oncology in a bone marrow transplant. I meet and care for many precious children and their families.

In late December, 2005, during one of many 12-hour overnight shifts, I admitted a young man who had been battling cancer for the past year. Our SCCA Hem/One Unit had 39 beds in four different clusters, so while this young man had been admitted before, I had never met him. I was immediately impressed.

Fighting nausea, vomiting, and pain, 18 year-old Bellevue High School graduate R. Hunter Simpson was very uncomfortable. He had an IV in his left antecubital – a bad spot for him because every time he moved, it occluded. So his pump was constantly beeping. His mother and I worked through the night to keep his arm straight, at times even having to use an arm board. Despite his discomfort, Hunter complained very little. Calm and patient, his mother also never left his side.

Hunter’s condition deteriorated quickly that night. As it became increasingly difficult to keep him comfortable, I called the doctor in many times over the next number of hours.

The morning of December 30, I left work with a heavy heart. I knew Hunter was not doing well. He continued to deteriorate – and in the early hours of December 31st, lost his battle. In a moving obituary, Seattle Times staff reporter Lornet Turnbull wrote of Hunter, “he was a young man with an old, giving soul.”

A recipient of Bellevue High School’s Brandy West Award for character and leadership, during his first and only semester in college, Hunter had cut the cost of his meals by eating only a cup of soup for lunch and dinner. When the semester ended in November 2005, Hunter used the remaining credit on the plan to buy $900 worth of chips, juice and water which he delivered to homeless children in Seattle. He also spent countless Saturdays handing out hot meals to the homeless around Pioneer Square. And he spent summers in Tijuana, Mexico, helping build homes for the poor. The last year of his life, he was invited by the Make-A-Wish Foundation to have a wish realized. Instead, he re-gifted his award to New Horizon Ministries who provide food and clothing to some 1,500 children each year. “Hunter,” said his mother Anne Simpson “was blessed with a spiritual gift. There’s no other way to describe it.”

Hunter’s loving heart also made him like-minded friends. Seventeen-year-old Francisco, fighting a cancer called Osteosarcoma, was roomed across the hall. The two became fast friends during treatment.

Francisco was from a village located four hours from Guatemala City. Of Mayan descent, at the age of 13 ½, he had walked across Arizona and hitchhiked to Seattle to connect with his uncle and brother-in-law. Sole supporter of his mother and nine siblings, Francisco did whatever he could to make money; cleaning, running errands for Pioneer Square businesses. Due to his illegal alien with no green card status, Francisco had waited until he was in so much pain he could not stand up before asking for help. Granted emancipation so he could receive treatment, he was always visiting and joking with other patients. Like Hunter, Francisco had a generous, caring, passionate spirit. Though chemo often racked his body with pain and fevers, he never rated his pain about 2/10.

The night Hunter lost his life, Francisco was also declining rapidly. His tumor pressed on his spine, paralyzing him. And as we rushed him to surgery, he woefully said “why do bad things happen to good people? I donate to “poor children” through the Save the Children campaign on TV.” Like Hunter, he wanted to make the world a better place. Sadly months later, Francisco would also lose his fight.

That night of Hunter’s death was very emotional. My co-workers Christiana, Jen and I talked as we bathed him after he passed. Everything was quiet and still; the hospital lights dimming, snow drifting outside. We were ringing in a new year the next day. Then, as we carefully lifted Hunter into his body bag, a loud buzzing filled the room over him like a little whirling cyclone. At first we thought it was a large, black fly and wondered how a fly could have possibly got into a hospital room in winter. To our surprise, it wasn’t a fly – and it landed right on Hunter’s chest. It was a Ladybug. And she stayed with him on his journey.

We wept as we wheeled Hunter down the hall – and then returned to Francisco’s room. In the dash to get Francisco to surgery, everything had been tossed around the room. A magazine lay upside down, sprawled across the floor. And as I turned it over, tears welled up in my eyes again. It was a Children’s Highlight magazine – and printed across the front page was a Ladybug.

Over the years, Ladybugs have appeared in the rooms of children who passed. However, the biggest coincidence was when I visited Hunter’s mom and shared the vision of Ladybug House. Her home is filled with Ladybug items. She had her own story. When she was cleaning Hunter’s room after he passed, it was filled with, yes…Ladybugs.