Distance was no obstacle for a young boy and a hospital credentialing coordinator who have become friends through their sticky note window art.
Meyer Mixdorf, 5, was a patient at Children's Mercy Kansas City in Missouri back in May when he made his first "mystery friend," Johnna Schindlbeck, a Truman Medical Centers employee who works across the street.
His mother, Liz Mixdorf, told Fox News that Meyer had been diagnosed with brain cancer in December 2020 and was taken to Children’s Mercy to receive treatment.
Five months into his treatment, Mixdorf and her husband decided to arrange sticky notes in the shape of a smiley face on Meyer’s window to lift his spirits after a difficult stem cell transplant. The trio never knew that they’d receive a winky face in response to their artwork a day later.
When they finally noticed the Post-it message, the Mixdorfs and Schindlbeck went back and forth sending emojis to each other for a few days.
"It was a really entertaining, uplifting activity that Meyer looked forward to," Mixdorf said.
Eventually, the family agreed to "up the game" and "do something fun," according to Mixdorf. They changed their window design to look like Nintendo’s Mario, and again their sticky note artwork was met with an equally elaborate rose.
Meyer and his parents worked through other iconic characters, including Iron Man, Batman, the Minions and more. Each creative design they put out, one was sent right back.
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Over on Schindlbeck’s side, she had no idea she was communicating with a pediatric patient and recruited office colleagues to help with the more complicated sticky note designs. On occasion, she’d have to order specific colors online or accept donations from friends.
"It was just fun in the very beginning," Schindlbeck told Fox News.
Schindlbeck and her Truman Medical Centers crew realized their Post-it buddy was a patient after she saw a sign Mixdorf taped to the window that said, "Thank you [heart] mom."
It didn’t take long for Schindlbeck to catch a glimpse of Meyer through the window after that, and figure out that he was staying on an oncology floor.
The sticky note routine carried on for several weeks while Meyer had to stay at the children’s hospital for his last three chemo treatments, which Mixdorf notes was a challenge because Meyer couldn’t see his four siblings in-person or spend time with other patients because the hospital’s playroom is temporarily closed due to COVD-19.
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Schindlbeck and the Mixdorf family members who had to keep their social distance were able to find Meyer’s room each time he moved, though through the sticky note designs he left on his window.
On July 13, Meyer’s MRI "came back clear" and he was discharged from Children’s Mercy, Mixdorf said. He even got a chance to meet Schindlbeck and the other Truman Medical staff who made his days brighter.
"I knew it was him as soon as I saw him and just started crying," Schindlbeck recalled about Meyer’s visit. "I think Liz and I just both had tears."
Meyer’s recovery struck a deep chord for Schindlbeck, who has lost two older brothers to cancer.
"That was kind of a personal connection for me," Schindlbeck said. "I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I really, I really feel for him and his family,’ because I know what that feels like to have to walk away at the end of the day or, you know, whatever the case is and you're just relying on the hospital staff taking care."
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Now Meyer is back home with his family in Siloam Springs, Arkansas, where he can enjoy the outdoors.
When asked what Mixdorf wants parents to know about her experience, she said she wants to remind people that "you don't know everybody's story" and that detail should be considered if "you see someone having a hard day."
"Kindness really does go a long way," Mixdorf shared. "And I'm learning to be grateful for the little things."
Schindlbeck, on the other hand, is astounded that a pack of Post-it notes and an acknowledgment of a smile brought her and Meyer together.
"It didn't take any time, it didn't take much thought. It just took a kind heart and somebody paying attention to what somebody else might need," she said. "Just be there even when you don't know what to do or know what to say."