Four Christmases, three Thanksgivings and three birthdays.
That’s how many big holidays Noah has experienced in the hospital since he was born in 2007 with a life-threatening heart defect that eventually led to a transplant. His longest stint was five straight months.
For Noah, as with all of our patients, that means his mom, dad and siblings likely spent those holidays huddled in the hospital as well. Sometimes year after year.
It’s a discomforting thought, so Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital makes every effort to bring a little normalcy and home life to patients such as Noah, especially during the holidays, through All Kids Wonderland.
All Kids Wonderland is a program run by the Child Life Department and funded entirely by generous donors every year through the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Foundation. Parents who rarely want to leave the hospital long enough to think about gift shopping, and are often burdened with financial issues, are given 10 tickets that they can exchange for gifts in our wonderland of toys located on campus. Parents can select gifts for their sick child and siblings so everyone can enjoy their own holidays their own way while in the hospital.
“The winter holidays often magnify the stress families are already experiencing through a child’s illness,” explains Kristin Maier, Child Life director. “Now factor in that that child and their siblings are missing out on significant life events that their friends are experiencing. Child Life supports the psycho-social needs of the child and the entire family by easing that stress and bringing a touch of normal to their lives.”
“Child Life and the Wonderland program have meant so much to our family over the years we’ve spent at Johns Hopkins All Children’s with Noah,” explains Cherish, Noah’s mom. In addition to his heart transplant, Noah has autism, which has made everything a little more complicated. “We have three kids and there have been times when my two daughters have been really shortchanged with Noah being sick. They have missed so much time with their mom, so to have this opportunity to be able to shop for my kids’ Christmas while in the hospital has been so wonderful.”
One year the girls received an American Girl doll, and they loved it. “It was very important to me that they understand the gifts came from the hospital, because there was so much and it was more than we would have been able to afford on our own,” Cherish adds. “I wanted my girls to understand that these special gifts were to thank them because I was away from them so much. The Child Life program has been pivotal in Noah’s care. They’ve cared for our entire family over the years and planned many holidays for us. Christmas is always the hardest to be away from home. But we’ve done it all at this hospital.”
These days Noah is doing well and is back at home. The family still comes to the hospital for regular appointments and hasn’t forgotten how much Johns Hopkins All Children’s and All Kids Wonderland has meant to them over the years. In fact, they have often appeared on Radiothon, an annual December fundraiser with US 103.5 FM, during which families share their personal stories to help raise money for programs like Child Life. “I love to share Noah’s story,” Cherish explains. “It’s a good one. He’s our little miracle and I think people need to hear that.”
For more information on how you can support programs like Child Life and All Kids Wonderland, contact Anysia McDowell at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Foundation at 727-767-2953.