If it weren’t for breaking out of his normal routine, Randy Geise might never have met Brendan Watson.

Geise is a senior healthcare facility planner at the Cleveland Clinic, where 13-year-old Brendan has been a patient at its Children’s facility for nearly half his life.

Last September, Geise was guest emceeing a family game night at The Ronald McDonald House, where Brendan and his family were staying, when Brendan found out that he worked on the Clinic’s buildings and properties.

“He got very excited and immediately whipped out his iPad to show us all of the information about our campus master plans and the upcoming cancer center groundbreaking,” Geise says. “He also showed me the set of sequential drawings he did of the Guesthouse Hotel demolition (to make room for the new Health Education Campus).”

Brendan’s parents, Brian and Tina, say their son has always had a passion for drawing and that during their drives from Michigan to Cleveland for treatment he became interested in the city skyline and the Clinic’s buildings.

“Brendan would always want to stop in the main campus lobby area and view the scaled-down model of the campus every time he was in the hospital for care or specialist visits,” they say.

Having found a “kid who thinks what we do is cool,” Geise says Brendan was invited to tour the model room after his treatment in September (click on the video at the end to see Brendan’s visit) and was an honorary guest at the new cancer building’s groundbreaking ceremony a few days later.

Those interactions showed the staff that a true building aficionado was in their presence, so before he left for home, they gave Brendan a set of main campus buildings with a wooden base with the streets and avenues.

“As he pulled each building out of the box, he knew exactly what it was and where it went,” Geise says.

Since then, the two have kept in touch, texting photos of the cancer building construction site, updated campus maps, and knock-knock jokes.

Considering all that his friend Brendan has overcome, Geise says he’s received a new perspective. “One of the most important lessons is that sometimes when you step outside of your normal routine, you never can tell when you’re going to make a friend,” he says.

Their friendship has also reminded him of how campus buildings impact patients and families every day.

For example, Geise says that for a while he thought that the two new family restrooms on the first floor of the Miller Family Heart & Vascular Institute were too big.

Then one day he was waiting for Brendan and his mom when they came out of one of the bathrooms and told the staff how much they appreciated its size, which can accommodate 3 to 4 people and a wheelchair. It also has a solid-surface bench that’s large enough for an adult-sized person to lie down.

Brendan says his favorite building on campus is the 12-story, pyramid-shaped Crile Building, where he sees many of his specialists.

When asked what advice he would give to building designers and architects, Brendan says, "Well, never give up and do what you love to do."


Check out the video below to see Brendan’s visit to the model room at the Cleveland Clinic.