Chicago hospitals help patients, families get through holiday season

Holidays are a time for family and friends to gather and enjoy each other's company while swapping presents and eating meals together. But for patients and families stuck in the hospital during the holiday season, it can be a painful and lonely experience.

That's why three Chicago-based hospitals are doing their best to make their pediatric patients and families feel a little closer to normal this holiday season.

"It's a terribly difficult time of the year for hospitalized children and their families," Katie Hammerberg, child life services coordinator at Alexian Brothers Women and Children's Hospital in Hoffman Estates, told the Daily Herald. "For children, it's all about keeping traditions and the magic of the holidays alive--especially when they are sick and away from home."

At Alexian Brothers Women and Children's Hospital, groups and businesses from around the community come together to decorate and help families celebrate, including Bob Mandarino, who started donating his time after his teen daughter was hospitalized between Thanksgiving and Christmas three years ago battling kidney damage, according to the article. Mandarino banded together with his electronic company colleagues and manufacturers to illuminate the entire hospital in season lights.

This year the hospital will open Santa's Toy Shop on Christmas Eve, with hospital staff and volunteers doling out gifts to children and their families, the Herald reported. A volunteer will bring the present cart from the shop to the neonatal unit, the intensive care unit and the adult oncology wing.  

Advocate Lutheran General Hospital tries to ease the fear of patients and parents by celebrating such milestones as birthdays, last treatments, going home and bravery parties, Denise Morrissey Chaveriat, child life specialist at Advocate Children's Hospital in Park Ridge, told the Herald.

"For children battling a childhood or life-threatening illness, being hospitalized can be frightening and means a disruption to their normal routines," says Morrissey Chaveriat. "Normal 'homelike' activities can help children acclimate to the new environment."

Dora Castro-Ahillen, child life therapy coordinator at Cadence Health Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield, knows decorations and special visits from Santa won't make sick children better, but it can make the process a little less straining along the way.

"For some new parents, their dreams of baby's first Christmas are dramatically altered," she said in the article. "We can help them get a picture with Santa and provide some sense of normalcy with special activities, decorations and even gifts. It doesn't alter their dreams, but it can help make their memories a little brighter."

To learn more:
- here's the article