Spending the holidays in the hospital isn't ideal. Felicity's mom shares how they created holiday cheer with gifts and decorations at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
As a first-time mommy, I was so excited about our baby Felicity’s first Christmas. I never imagined we would be in the hospital for it. I certainly never dreamed we would be fighting for her life. But, our baby’s 4-month checkup led to the discovery of multiple, aggressive tumors in her brain and spine. Flash forward a few weeks, and Felicity was receiving treatment at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., and the three of us were living in an apartment provided to us free of charge by St. Jude.
I knew we would be inpatient Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Come December, it seemed like St. Jude housing would be our “home for the holidays.” But, shortly before Christmas, Felicity broke into a fever and was just feeling downright awful. We were admitted as inpatient. I knew we would be inpatient Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I’m usually cheerful. That day, I was tired and upset.
I was reclining in the hospital recliner with Felicity cuddled on my chest, tears rolling down my cheeks. Suddenly, our door opened, and we had our very own personal choir of Christmas carolers. A team of St. Jude doctors, nurses and staff were singing to the patients and families, one patient room at a time. Gestures like this are what make St. Jude so special, and it was the best medicine for me. I decided I wasn’t going to let being inpatient stop us from celebrating. It was Felicity’s very first Christmas, after all!
The giving hearts of others put the Christmas spirit into mine.
Gifts for Felicity
Later that day, Brittney, our Child Life Specialist, stopped in and explained that Santa delivers presents to each patient on Christmas morning, and they ask the parents to come pick out the gifts they think their child would like. I was expecting it would be fun to pick out a few items … well, the experience was WAY more than that. There were about eight rooms all filled with toys, floor to ceiling, each room categorized by age and gender. WOW, when my “shopping” experience was complete, Santa would be delivering so many fun toys for Felicity! I almost felt guilty. It felt crazy to be picking out THIS many toys?!?!
I found out these toys had been donated by families, by companies, by stores, by organizations, and it made my heart so full. My husband and I had been able to get Felicity a gift or two, purchased from the St. Jude Gift Shop, and of course, we had family who had a few gifts for her, but we would never have had the time to give her anything like this. I felt so grateful. The giving hearts of others put the Christmas spirit into mine.
We brought a three-foot Christmas tree, ornaments and extra strands of lights to the hospital room.
Christmas decorations lit up the hospital room
Something about me: I LOVE Christmas, and I LOVE to decorate for Christmas. We brought a three-foot Christmas tree, ornaments and extra strands of lights to the hospital room. We made snowflakes and a garland chain from construction paper to hang in the window. We had stockings, and candy cane decals. Our room became the talk of the inpatient floors – we had nurses coming from different units to see it!
I should pause to say that my husband and I are extremely appreciative of the inpatient rooms at St. Jude. They’re spacious, clean and take the comfort of parents into consideration by offering a separate parent room. Parents can rest on a pull-out sofa bed, take showers, and even complete tasks using a built-in desk.
Before coming to St. Jude, we spent many nights sleeping on lawn chairs in other hospitals. St. Jude thought of everything when building these patient rooms. We topped off our Christmas spirit by making the room glow green with the built-in LED colored lighting in the room and putting on our favorite Christmas movie, provided by St. Jude.
To all the parents at the hospital this holiday season: Don’t give up! Keep going! You’re all strong, amazing parents. We wish you a Merry Christmas!
The greatest gift
On Christmas morning, Santa did not disappoint. He delivered two large bags full of wrapped presents. We helped Felicity unwrap presents all day long! Christmas at St. Jude may not have been how I envisioned spending the holiday, but I am forever thankful.
The greatest gift we received was given to us the day we arrived at St. Jude. Not because we never received a bill, not because they gave us money for food, not because they gave us an apartment to live in – all that is true. But it’s because they gave us hope, and my daughter a chance to live. St. Jude gave us the gift of being a family of three for the first time! I can’t convey how much St. Jude means to us, and how much they helped us. Because of St. Jude, our next Christmas was spent in our own home, decorated and surrounded by all our family and friends, with Felicity.
To all the parents at the hospital during holiday season: Don’t give up! Keep going! You’re all strong, amazing parents. We wish you a Merry Christmas!