The Garrett Andrew Helms Memorial Lectureship was established by the PPAG Board of Directors in 2015 in honor of the life of Garrett Helms, the son of PPAG Executive Director, Matthew Helms. The Lectureship is dedicated to topics which touched Garrett’s life: autism, childhood cancer, pain and palliative care, quality of life, complex patient care, and sibling care.
The first Garrett Lecture was given at the Annual Meeting of the Pediatric Pharmacy Association in April 2016. Sarah Elizabeth Friebert, MD, the Director of Pediatric Palliative Care at Akron Children’s Hospital, presented “A Zero Tolerance Policy for Symptoms and Suffering in Children and Families: Together, We Can!”
The Garrett Andrew Helms Memorial Lecture is supported annually with a grant provided by the Garrett Andrew Helms Memorial Fund at the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis. The Fund was established by his grandparents, Susan and Richard Helms.
Garrett Andrew Helms (2003-2015)
Garrett Helms was born on May 20, 2003 in Memphis, TN. With an autism diagnosis at two years of age, Garrett’s future seemed limited. Even while struggling with daily challenges, he continued to flourish and make enormous strides year after year. Garrett was diagnosed with Retinoblastoma when he was ten years old. However, throughout his cancer treatment, he continued to do what he enjoyed the most; bike riding, boating, swimming, and hiking. He died on October 25, 2015 at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital with his parents by his side. Although he remained nonverbal in his short life, Garrett’s infectious smile and adventurous personality spoke to and touched many.
Most of us think that communication requires verbal language, but we learned from Garrett how wrong that assumption is. He taught the people that knew him a vibrant language of action, manor, and will. Most of us think learning comes in a predictable pattern, reaching milestones at certain times, but Garrett taught us it could work differently. His receptive language accelerated at great speed. Many may have assumed that Garrett did not understand, but provided us with many of examples of how wrong we could be in making assumptions from the "neuro-typical perspective.”
Much of what we thought we knew, we did not. He brought a treasure trove of learning with him each day. Whether his parents, grandparents, sibling, teacher, therapist, caregiver, school administrator, medical team, we all learned. We learned that life is not a predictable place, that value in life needs to be calibrated differently, that joy comes in unexpected ways, but that love is true and unswerving regardless of the circumstances. Garrett was a teacher of extraordinary skill and wisdom.
The Garrett Andrew Helms Memorial Lectureship hopes to continue this teaching and learning process through a lectureship in Garrett’s name.