TOPEKA (KSNT) – Erica Sirrine started her career in a pediatric unit, then after pursuing her Ph.D. and spending a lot of time in academia…she realized it was time for a change.

“During the pandemic, I started to feel a call back to health care. I missed being in health care, and I felt like I should be contributing in that way. I starting thinking if I’m going back into practice in a hospital environment…where would I want to be, and St. Jude was the answer.”

Much of her earlier work has been in thanatology…which is the study of death, dying and bereavement. Her current specialties include continuing bonds, non-death losses, ambiguous loss and anticipatory grief, which is sadness before a death.

“Some people think that grief just accompanies a death of a loved one, but it really accompanies other types of losses. Here at St. Jude, even our patients and families…when the prognosis is very positive and hopeful…there are still significant losses that they experience along the way. “

She often hears how families talk about their life before diagnosis, and the life after diagnosis.

“A lot of our families relocate here for treatment, so they experience a loss of their social support system. That school or favorite teacher where the child was before…they now don’t have that in their lives. Sometimes we have teenagers that get diagnosed that were driving and working jobs…and now they’ve lost a lot of independence because their caregives don’t want them to do so of those thing now that they’re diagnosed.”

She says, the period of adjustment at St. Jude varies from family to family, but having a very sick child is so hard for everyone.

“I’m a Mom, people watching might be parents as well, and we want to see our child healthy, and playing and happy…but when we know our child is battling and illness…that’s not the life we expected for them and that can be really difficult.”

Her team of social workers is always busy…as you might imagine. Along with other psycho/social providers, they work with psychologists, child-life specialists and spiritual care providers to conduct assessments. Then, they use interventions that can help families cope with the multitude of emotions that they may be experiencing.

“One of the things that has been the most impactful to me is I’ve also witnesses the extraordinary resilience and strength, courage and determination of our patients and caregivers…they have profoundly changed my life. I’ve learned so much from them, and through them…it makes it such an honor to work here.”

From her work at St. Jude, Sirrine truly believes the greatest gift her team provides is presence…sometimes in silence to share supportive presence, and being there for families when they need it most.

Lastly, here’s what she had to say when asked about the importance of giving or buying a ticket to support the families that use their services.

“What you’re doing through the dream home, and obviously what the donors are contributing, is actually allowing us to help patients and families fight that battle. When we celebrate a victory, I hope that all of your donors and those buying tickets know that you are actually celebrating in those moments right along side of us. You may not be here every day, but you matter to our families more than you’ll ever realize.”

Please reserve your ticket now for the St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway. Tickets are 1-hundred dollars each, and proceeds go toward research to fight deadly pediatric diseases and to support families at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital so no one pays anything for travel, accommodations, food or treatment.

You can reserve your ticket for the dream home giveaway by clicking here.