Monday, March 30, 2015

The baby whisperer

Jim O'Connor does not baby his math students at St. Francis High School in La Canada, CA. The Vietnam veteran and former engineer teaches algebra and calculus at the boys' prep school, and his classes are not fun. If a student is caught even looking at the clock, he's in trouble for the rest of the period. Until recently, most students thought O'Connor was too tough, but now some want to emulate him -- to model themselves after him. What changed their minds?

In 2013, one of his students, Pat McGoldrick, visited Childrens' Hospital Los Angeles as part of a school blood drive. When he looked at the list of major donors, he was astonished to see his math teacher's name at the top. O'Connor has Type O negative blood, which can be transfused into any patient. So far, he had donated 72 gallons! But nurses told McGoldrick his no-nonsense math teacher gives more than blood. He also gives love. "We really do depend on him," said nurse Sherry Nolan.

The hard-nosed math teacher found his other calling at the hospital where, for the past 20 years, he's spent several days a week cuddling sick babies. "They seem to take to him as much as he takes to them. He holds them, feeds them, walks around with them, gets to know them, and he can always coax a smile out of them," says Nolan. "They just stare at him adoringly and he can get the crabbiest baby to calm down. He's a natural-born cuddler."

O'Conner is especially drawn to babies who have nobody; babies on "hospital hold" waiting for foster homes or babies who are dying and their parents are too traumatized to visit the hospital. He says the babies he cuddles "can do no wrong. They just want to be held by somebody."

No comments:

Post a Comment