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Holidays in the Hospital

By Gina Gippner

Gina Gippnerit’s December 24th and children all around the world are getting into their beds in anticipation of the morning. “Twas the Night before Christmas” is being read to them by adults who are trying to persuade each of their children to fall into slumber, “Santa won’t be able to leave your presents under the tree if you don’t fall asleep.”  

A few hours later parents will walk silently down their hallway; finding their way into their child’s room. Silently opening the door they will walk over to their child, brush the hair away from their face, and kiss their forehead. Finally sleep has come.

It’s December 25th and children all around the world are waking up. Sheets are flung off their beds, awaking everyone in the house before their feet have a chance to hit the floor. “WAKE UP! WAKE UP! IT’S CHRISTMAS MORNING. WAKE UP!”

Families will gather where their trees were decorated, and underneath the lights of the trees, boxes will be wrapped in paper and bows, and children will shuffle through the mass of gifts to find one that has their name on it.  A Mother will be reminding her children to slow down, and take turns… but even through her words the children will be too excited to wait.  When the last present is opened the family will move to their dining room table and breakfast will be served. The rest of the day will be filled with family, friends, and dreams of what next year will bring.

But, for some children Christmas doesn’t read like a “Hallmark Card”.

It’s December 24th and children all around the world are already in their beds anticipating when the nurse is going to come in their hospital room and administer their next shot. “Twas the Night before Christmas” is nowhere to be found, and there are no adults persuading these children to fall asleep— just nurses who come in every few hours to wake them up to check their vital signs.

Gina GippnerIt’s December 25th and children all around the world are waking up. Sheets still in tack, safety bars in place, and they can’t get out of bed until they have the help of another. A nurse will come in, check their vital signs and their morning breakfast will be served.  Christmas has become just another day.

There are over 8 million children a year who are diagnosed with a life-threatening illness who don’t have family or friends to visit them. Some are children with no parents, many have parents who don’t live close enough to visit, and others are too sick to even know if a visitor has arrived.

Twenty-one years ago I happened to be in the hospital on Christmas Day. I remember a little girl in the next bed, and both of us were quarantined. A big sign on our hospital door read “DO NOT ENTER!”  Around 2:00 p.m.  Santa made his rounds. Down the corridor we could hear him, “Ho, Ho, Ho. Merry Christmas!” He would say as he entered each room.

I watched as the little girl sat up in her hospital bed in anticipation of his visit into our room. As he got closer, her eyes got wider. Christmas was about to walk through our room when all of a sudden Santa read the sign – “DO NOT ENTER!” He stopped dead-in-his-tracks, pulled a stuffed toy out of his pack, and threw it to me, and said, “Will you hand that to the little girl please!”  Then in a twinkle of an eye, Santa was gone.

The reason I wanted to share this true story of Christmas is because Christmas is not the same for every child.

This Christmas and throughout the year, please remember the children who spend their Holiday season not dreaming of a “White Christmas”, but a healthy one.

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