celebrating the holiday season for critically ill patients at Dayton Children’s
The holiday season is a time for celebrating, decorating and spending time with family. However for many Dayton families, the first thing on their mind is not the shopping mall or the Christmas meal because their child is in the hospital during this time. Whether it is a trip to the emergency room, or an extended stay in one of Dayton Children’s critical care areas, spending time in the hospital during the holiday season is generally not what a child expects or looks forward to.
However, thanks to the amazing staff, volunteers and community members who help at Dayton Children’s, these patients and their families holidays are filled with a little more cheer and made a little brighter.
Rick and Belinda Orill of Dayton have been celebrating Christmas at Dayton Children’s for the past 20 years. However on Christmas morning Rick goes by another very familiar name… Santa Claus. Santa visits every patient, even in the emergency department and delivers presents to each of them.
“I enjoy visiting the patients on Christmas morning because I love to see the sparkle in their eyes when I walk into their room,” says Rick. “I feel like it gives them a little hope and happiness while they are in the hospital going through whatever illness they are facing. It also lets them know that they have not been forgotten by Santa on Christmas morning!”
Doctors and nurses can also be seen with their Santa and snowflake ties and scrubs helping their patients to know they haven’t forgotten it is the holidays. Each member of the staff takes extra steps to ensure that the holiday season is just as magical for the kids and families in the hospital.
“We have spent two Christmas seasons at Dayton Children's on the Hematology/oncology floor,” says Rachel Ornsby, mother of a former Dayton Children’s cancer patient. “There was constant love and attention from the staff and volunteers and the true spirit of Christmas flowing throughout the building.”
Other families share similar sentiments at seen on the Dayton Children’s facebook page.
Because Dayton Children’s is focused on the kid and the family atmosphere, the whole hospital gets a makeover during this holiday season. From the courtyard and gift shop to the individual departments and rooms, decorations “deck the halls” bringing cheer to all who walk through.
“In the newborn intensive care unit (NICU), we allow families to have a small artificial Christmas tree by their bedside” says Jennifer Morris, NICU clinical coordinator. “Santa visits the NICU and we will get a picture if the family chooses to have it done. The NICU staff also takes pictures of each baby and designs a Christmas card for the family in addition to the Santa picture. Our goal is to make the families’ Christmas as special as possible at this challenging time.”
Many groups also visit the hospital during the holidays to deliver gifts to patients. This is coordinated through both the Dayton Children’s child life and development departments. Each year Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club associates come to the hospital to donate gift bags for patients, staff, and the Children’s Home Care of Dayton. This year will also see visits from Evenflo and Time Warner employees as well as numerous other groups.
“A hospital stay for patients and families can be discouraging during the holiday season. At Dayton Children’s we strive to make hospitalization as positive as possible” says Karen Muller, child life manager at Dayton Children’s. “Special events include craft activities, visits with Santa and musical guests. There is even a Secret Santa store one day where patients can choose items as gifts for their family members that are provided by TWIGS (terrific women in giving), our women’s auxiliary.”
Because Dayton Children’s is one of only 50 freestanding children’s hospitals in the country, they are able to focus completely on what kids want and what will make their time here a little less painful or scary. While this is true any time of year, the holiday season makes it even more apparent as the community comes together to give even Dayton’s most critically ill patients a special holiday.
Pictures available upon request
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