WEST OCEAN CITY – A local boy had the opportunity of a lifetime last week as he escorted first lady Melania Trump during a visit to Children’s National Health System in Washington D.C.
Ocean City Elementary School kindergarten student Nathan Simm held Trump’s hand as she entered the atrium of the hospital to read to its young patients. He and fellow patient Tearrianna Cooke-Starkey joined her on a bench in front of the crowd as she read “Oliver the Ornament.”
“I had fun,” the 6-year-old Simm said.
The first lady continued a tradition started decades ago as she visited Children’s National Dec. 13 to read to its young patients. This year’s story, “Oliver the Ornament,” shared an anti-bullying message.
Simm didn’t find out he’d be missing school to attend the special event until the night before. His mother said the hospital invited him to take part in the reading two weeks ahead of time but explained that she opted to wait to tell him in order to keep it a secret.
“We weren’t to say anything to anyone,” said his mother, Shannon Simm.
Those who watched television coverage of the first lady’s visit last Thursday likely saw Simm, as he sat between Trump and Santa in front of the hospital’s impressive Christmas tree.
“He had a terrified look on his face for part of it — he was a little nervous — but he loved it,” his mother said. “It’s such an honor. He did so good. We keep telling him not every boy gets to hold the first lady’s hand, it’s usually just Donald Trump.”
Simm said she was impressed with the attention Trump paid to each of the children present.
“She didn’t just shake their hand and move on,” Simm said. “She took the time to get down to the ground and hold hands and talk to patients. She was very sweet and very kind.”
Simm also had nothing but praise for Children’s National Health System. She said Nathan had technically been a patient there since before he was born, as she started seeing doctors there when she was 20 weeks pregnant after a sonogram showed that her son’s fibula bone hadn’t grown. The condition is called fibular hemimelia.
“It’s the absence of the fibula bone,” she said. “It just never grew. The tibia was bowed and short. It had two little toes and that’s what they amputated.”
Her son continues to make annual visits to the hospital, as some missing ligaments will likely require another surgery in the future.
“Having a prosthetic leg, it does not stop this kid,” Simm said. “He’s your typical 6-year-old.”
Simm said she was grateful for the care he’d received at Children’s National over the years and was thrilled that the hospital provided him with such a unique opportunity last week.
“We love Children’s Hospital,” she said. “We love what they do for the patients. We love that he was given this amazing opportunity. He can’t stop talking about it.”