No one wants to be sick in the hospital.
No one wants to be sick in the hospital, especially not around the holidays.
No one wants to be sick in the hospital around the holidays, especially not children.
(If you aren’t interested in the backstory, click here to cut to the chase.)
Until this past year, my father spent many consecutive holiday seasons in the intensive care unit with end-stage congestive heart failure. While those holidays were a far cry from “the most wonderful time of the year”, they were evocative in their own right because they prompted me to recognize all I had been taking for granted. For instance, the weather outside was no longer frightful after seeing the excitement on my dad’s face when he was transferred to a room with a window that allowed him to see outside, let alone feel Jack Frost nipping at his nose. Watching the sun rise and set helped him track whether the pills his nurses stopped by to give him were an AM or PM dose. And how could I whine about traffic knowing my mother spent seven days a week commuting nearly four hours to and from the hospital just to keep my dad company and advocate for him when he needed rest? For months, she schlepped giant bags full of his personal belongings to try to make him forget he was in the hospital; from the fleece pajama pants he wore on game day whenever the Jets played, to the sugar-free Jello cups she would freeze every night because he told her scraping the ice shavings made him feel like he was eating a gourmet treat. St. Nicholas took a back seat to my mom, who was the true saint at work…but she had a red-haired afro instead of a red-nosed reindeer. And exclaimed f-bombs in lieu of “ho ho ho’s”. And also happened to be a petite Jewish woman.
Our holiday celebrations were unconventional. Instead of exchanging gifts, we celebrated that my dad was beginning to feel strong enough to walk laps around the nurse’s station. (Although we may have been the only ones excited about that, since he notoriously forgot to close the back of his gown.) We celebrated when my sister and I got the same days off from work so we could be at the hospital at the same time. We celebrated every ounce of progress and opportunity to be together. His illness may have broken holiday tradition, but it did not break my family’s spirit.
But the thing to keep in mind is that by the time my dad was hospitalized, my sister and I were mature adults who understood the magnitude of our circumstances. Plus, we were fortunate to have already grown up experiencing many whimsical holidays at home with two healthy parents. Not all families are as lucky as we were in that sense. I began to consider that it must feel especially unnatural to be in a situation like ours when the patient is the child rather than a parent. A child’s concerns during the holidays should be about which presents to unwrap first, not about when they’ll have their IVs removed or if they’ll be eating Thanksgiving dinner on a hospital tray. Moreover, the emotional burden and financial stress of caring for a sick child must be downright exhausting for parents, regardless of the season. Therefore, to commemorate my family’s milestone of being home (and healthy!) for the holidays, it’s my mission to support families who haven’t been blessed with such great fortune this year.
I’m teaming up with UMass Memorial’s Children’s Medical Center to fulfill as many holiday wish lists as I can. I’m collecting donations to purchase gifts for their inpatient pediatric population between now and December 8th, 2017. UMass generously organizes an opportunity at the hospital for any caregivers who may be struggling to pay off their child’s medical bills or simply haven’t had time to shop given their child’s condition to stop by and take the wish list items they need. We’ll take care of wrapping and delivery.
HERE’S HOW YOU CAN HELP:
1. Donate so that we can check off as many items on these wish lists as possible! (If you have any trouble with the hyperlink, copy and paste https://www.gofundme.com/cx52m-umm-childrens-med-center-wish-list into your browser.)
2. Purchase a gift you would be willing to donate. (If you’re interested in doing this, please check with me first so I can give you a run down of “do’s” and “don’ts”.)
3. Share this link with anyone in your network who may be interested in helping. It feels good to do good. Most people care about helping others but don’t always have a simple and trustworthy avenue to channel their humanitarianism, so give someone the gift of giving back!
Thank you! Wishing everyone a happy and healthy holiday season.
UPDATE: December 19, 2017
Thank you so much for your support and generosity. Together, we were able to donate nearly $1,300 of gifts to the children at UMM Children’s Medical Center. Santa’s Workshop is at the hospital this week to give parents a few days to select gifts for their children that we will wrap and deliver. Because of your contributions, no pediatric patient (plus their siblings– bonus!) will be left without gifts waiting for them when they wake up on Christmas morning. I don’t plan to take photos from the hospital on Christmas Day out of respect for the families’ privacy, but I thought I would share a photo of the gifts that were donated to drive home how many wish lists were fulfilled with your help. Again, thank you to everyone who supported this effort from the bottom of my heart. You’ve made my holiday season brighter by affording me the opportunity to volunteer with the hospital, but FAR more importantly, you’ve restored an ounce of normalcy for the children at UMM Children’s Medical Center who couldn’t be home for the holidays this year.