Many people in the community ask me how difficult is it for a child and family to find themselves needing to be hospitalized, and I believe I get this question more during the holiday season than any other time of the year.  Finding your child needing to be a patient on Baird 5, or in our neonatal or pediatric intensive care units, is certainly not part of a family’s holiday plans.   So when this happens, you can imagine the potential upset and angst it can cause.

Yet if you happen to be up on our inpatient floors at this time of year, you are apt to see far more smiles than frowns, thanks to the incredible Child Life team and the rest of our wonderful team of doctors, nurses, and staff who makes the holiday season special for each and every patient who stays with us.   How do they do this?  First and foremost, they listen to what families tell us about how they celebrate their holidays and then try to make the “holiday magic” happen by making sure that special activity, gift, or event can happen as if that family were at home.  Yet this doesn’t happen without the help of everyone in this community–and at this time of year, I am so grateful for the many ways the community shows how much it cares for our pediatric patients.

What are some of these ways?  I don’t think there is a day in December that a musical group of singers, dancers, or instrumentalists doesn’t come by to serenade our children and families.  I love it when our staff joins our families to sing along.  I also love the many special guests who come during December–from various mascots such as Champ, celebrities such as Miss Vermont, and of course Santa, who manages to stop by sometimes even more than once prior to his big trip to the Vermont Children’s Hospital during Christmas eve. 

I also love the way holidays such as Hanukkah and Kwanzaa are also celebrated on our floor so that every patient feels that their personal traditions and cultures are being respected and valued. 

As to holiday foods, all I can say is wow–so many of our local businesses, hotels, and community agencies help provide an abundance of holiday goodies so that everyone is well-fed with holiday delicacies at this time of the year. 

Of course, our partners at the Ronald McDonald House do an extra special amount of providing for those less fortunate, both in our Ronald McDonald Parent Room and at the Ronald McDonald House downtown where so many of our families stay when their children are hospitalized. 

Even if a community member or group does not make a personal appearance at our hospital, they are there in spirit thanks to their generous donations made through fund-raising events throughout the year that allow us to provide our patients with that special toy, stuffed animal, or video game they had their heart set on having, not to mention providing ferry transportation or whatever type of transportation it takes to bring that special family member to Vermont Children’s Hospital who might not be easily able to afford the travel back and forth. 

Our major friend-raiser and fund-raiser, the Big Change Round-up for Kids, kicks off on WOKO FM right after the holidays, but during December we find ourselves using a good deal of the dollars raised through this wonderful campaign.  I’ll have more to say about the Big Change Round-up in future blogs, but suffice it say,  we would not be able to make the holiday season so special for our patients without this important fundraising event.

When I refer to the Vermont Children’s Hospital as “our children’s hospital”, it is times like this month that truly reflect our all working together to improve the health and well being of the children we serve–making everyone at this holiday season truly “First with Kids”!  Happy holidays everyone and thanks for all you do to make our children’s hospital so special!

Lewis First, M.D., is chief of Pediatrics at Vermont Children’s Hospital at the University of Vermont Medical Center and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Larner College of Medicine at UVM. You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and on WPTZ Channel 5. Visit the First with Kids video archives at http://www.uvmhealth.org/firstwithkids

Lewis First, MD, is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine at the University of Vermont.

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