No one wants to be in the hospital over the holidays. And if you are a child in the hospital, it can turn a magical holiday season upside down.
At Carle Foundation Hospital six certified child life specialists work to reduce anxiety and stress for Surgery, Pediatrics/PICU, and anywhere else for children at Carle’s Urbana campus.
“We try to do anything we can to lift their spirits, especially during this time of year,” Ashley Lown, BS, said.
The Child Life Specialist team decorated the pediatrics area with Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanza signs and symbols to let children and their families know no matter what they celebrate, they are in a welcoming place.
Santa Claus will be virtually visiting the young patients. Lown said the virtual visits from the North Pole are designed to spread holiday joy and reassure children in the hospital that Santa knows where they are this year.
“We had to be creative this year. We are excited,” Lown said.
Parent Jessica Gawthorp said she is thankful for the Carle child life specialists because her daughter Lilyjo, is frequently in the hospital due to complications from a rare genetic disorder. This year it looks like Lilyjo, who also is developmentally delayed and having seizures among other health concerns, will spend Christmas in a hospital bed. It has been two years since she was last admitted. This time her stay is exceeding a week.
“They know her,” Gawthorp said of the specialists. Lilyjo knows sign language and the specialists have learned small words in sign to communicate with her. “Knowing the child life specialists, the nurses, the doctors and with them being so personable, it makes the time here easier. They know when I need a pick-me-up also.”
In fact, she said they make you feel like family. “I can cry in front of them even though I do not like to cry in front of people and they can always make me feel better.” She added, “Thank you from the bottom of my heart for sacrificing your holiday with your families to take care of my daughter. Every one of you is amazing.”