It’s funny how sometimes you find your life purpose in a simple event. Ashlie Miller was just looking for a playmate and had no idea that it would eventually fuel her passion for children with life-threatening illnesses.
“I was born with a hole in my heart in 1989. At two, I underwent open-heart surgery. I remember asking my mom if there was anyone to play with. I was lonely and bored. There was nobody to play with me. Since that time, I’ve developed a love for children with life-threatening illnesses. I want their hospital stays to be more like home, and I want to give them the experience I didn’t have when I was in the hospital,” explained Ashlie.
If there had been a child life specialist at the hospital for Ashlie, her stay would have been totally different. Which is why she is determined to earn her degree to start changing kids’ lives now.
Basically, a child life specialist acts as a therapist, a friend and a playmate who helps children understand their procedures through educated play. They teach kids coping mechanisms, pain management strategies and help parents navigate insurance companies, doctor appointments and life inside a hospital.
“Being able to interact with people and helping them find a connection with me is key to what I’m wanting to do and coming to MACC was the first step in finding my true ability,” said Ashlie.
Ashlie chose to start her education at the MACC-Hannibal Area Higher Education Center because she wanted to go to college close to home. MACC was also an affordable option.
She was incredibly shy and the thought of going to a huge college was more than she could handle. Ashlie is the first in her family to attend college, so just walking into MACC to register for classes was overwhelming.
“The people at MACC helped me with all of the questions that I had and choosing my classes. In fact, a few semesters into my time here, I actually began working at the front desk. I sat at my desk that first day thinking about how far I’ve come since starting MACC. I’m now the one helping people just like me who are coming in for the first time completely nervous and scared. When I started, I was too nervous to even answer the phones! MACC has really helped me come out of my shell, ” she explained.
Ashlie is transferring to a four-institution to finish her bachelor’s degree so she can begin fulfilling her dreams.
“As a child life specialist, I want to help make a difference in a little boy or girl’s life and I’m very glad MACC is helping me do that,” said Ashlie.