Pammie Quintero-Rodriguez loves music. She loves to listen to music, she loves to sing, and she loves it when Kirsten Nelson, a music therapist at University of Iowa Children’s Hospital, finds songs for her and teaches her to sing them.
The nine-year-old Coralville girl has been a patient at UI Children’s Hospital on and off since birth, amassing a total of 13 surgeries for mostly heart and lung issues with many more in her future. For Pammie, music is sometimes the only thing that makes her happy.
One song in particular, "Little Bit Stronger," by country music star Sara Evans, is a special favorite. As Pammie told her classmates when she returned to school in August, listening to and singing the song helps her feel a little bit stronger every day.
Meeting the star in person after her concert at Fry Fest on September 7 has made Pammie feel even better.
Pammie’s mother, Patty Rodriguez, was nervous that her daughter wouldn’t be able to stay awake through the concert.
"She was getting tired and ready to go home, but after she saw Sara she woke right up," Patty says. "Pammie told her that her song makes her feel a little bit stronger, and Sara Evans told her she was glad and that she was going to pray for her."
"When Pammie heard that, she thought, ‘OK. I’m OK.’ It gave her a little extra dose of energy and she was excited about the rest of the night," Patty says.
Pammie’s visit with her country music idol came thanks to the efforts of the young girl’s music therapist at UI Children’s Hospital. When Kirsten heard that Evans was going to headline this year’s Fry Fest celebration in Coralville, she wanted to see if she could arrange a meeting with the young fan.
"We’ve had success getting celebrities or local concert venues to grant wishes for our kids. The Sioux City Convention Center provided a patient backstage passes for the Jason Aldean concert, and Weird Al visited and subsequently called young fans here at the hospital. And now this connection," Kirsten says of the young patients. "A lot of times if it comes from someone who works at the hospital explaining how important it is to a patient to meet them, they respond without hesitation."
She put in a call to the Coralville Convention and Visitor’s Bureau and got the ball rolling. Before she knew it, a meeting had been scheduled for after Evans’ concert. She told Pammie’s mother, who had thought the idea was a good one when first approached by Kirsten.
"I thought I would make it a surprise, but because Pammie was having problems recovering from her last surgery and was weak, I thought I’d tell her so she’d have something to look forward to," Patty says.
Kirsten is glad she was able to arrange the meeting.
"I guess I feel like these kids deserve the opportunities to go to these concerts," she says. "All the work they put into being here and getting well, I feel like they should get the excitement and anticipation of meeting the singer and then having those memories. They’re not able to get together with friends and go see concerts like typical kids."
"We take every day as it comes here," she says. "I think it’s important to make wishes come true. If a phone call or an email can make that happen, I want to do that."