The Art of Making New Friends


A hospital visit can be a scary experience for a youngster, but having a friend to lean on is great medicine for alleviating those fears. So it was with Savannah Peaslee and Olivia Ward during their recent stay at Renown Children’s Hospital.

The girls — both budding artists who suffer from asthma — had never met before their hospitalization. Olivia (age 7) lives in Sacramento and was visiting her grandmother in Reno at the time, and Savannah (age 8) lives in Reno. The girls experienced difficulty breathing on the same day and were admitted to the hospital around the same time. Day 2 of their stay, a nursing assistant suggested an artistic play date for the duo on the unit’s Child Life Floor.

And that was just the beginning.

For the next two days, Savannah and Olivia painted and colored, played board games, drew on the walls of the unit’s teen room (it’s allowed!), took walks together, and even shared the same room one evening for a movie.

“They actually kicked me out of the room,” Sonia Gouveia, Olivia’s mother, exclaims with a chuckle. “I had to watch TV by myself next door. They were so cute, giggling all the time and with the oxygen tanks next to them.”

Savannah was articulate when thinking about why she and Olivia got along so well: “She was close to my age and also she liked art.” And she believes it helped that both girls suffered from asthma. “We had the same thing, and she knew what I was going through,” Savannah adds. “She had it worse than me, but I also knew what she was going through.”

Savannah’s mom, Sheila Peaslee, feels that the budding friendship took Savannah’s mind off her stressful, first-ever hospital experience. “I truly think it helped her get better,” Sheila says. “It was just what she needed. She was so excited to tell me when she met Olivia,” she continues. “They just instantly bonded.”

Sonia Gouveia, Olivia’s mom, agrees. “Since they were both in the same situation, as scary as it was, they were really able to lean on each other. They just had a kind of natural connection. Friendship like that is hard to come by.”

Both girls are doing better after their hospital stays. Savannah now has an inhaler as well as a nebulizer to control her asthma, while Olivia is on four different medications to keep her healthy.

And the bonding will continue. It started on Thanksgiving Day, when Savannah gave Olivia a call to find out how the holiday was going, and their moms are planning a visit when Olivia returns sometime this year to visit her grandma.

For Savannah and Olivia, it turns out the asthma cloud has a beautiful silver lining — friendship.