Halloween at the Hospital

We wanted to share with you the photos we took today of all the GUH Pediatric Oncology team in their fairy and princess costumes. We also included some pictures of the hospital’s Halloween Parade. If you haven’t had a good laugh yet today, take a look!FairiesOffice Shot 2Office FairiesOffice Fairies 2NursesKing JuanHelkhaSimone and familySpiderman   Rasha and the gang Minnie Maya and Mom Maya and Fairies Little Fairy Lemar and fairies In motion IMG_8434  Hallway Dog Dino and mom Trick or Treat Superman

Scurrying Fairy

Tulle is Cool

Each year the clinic team at Georgetown dresses up together for Halloween- last year we were Washington Nationals baseball players, the year before that we were pirates. A few weeks ago one of our nurses excitedly suggested that this year the team dress up as fairies and princesses, which we all agreed would be a lot of fun!

fairyland

Throughout October we have been busy preparing our costumes, which involve crafting fluffy tutus of tulle.  We’ve had a great time making tutus for the nurses, social workers, art therapists and techs—and some real princesses (our patients)—as well!

Finding small pockets of time in the late afternoon for the staff to get together and work on our costumes was a fun way to de-stress and share in a creative process with one another. Some of our staff excitedly created elaborate costumes of tulle fashioned after famous fairies. Others created their own, unique characters.  Some even made tulle accessories, including headbands, capes, wings and wrist cuffs!

Crafting our tutus

Crafting our tutus

The king making his scepter

The king making his scepter

 Tulle tutus are pretty simple to make, which made for a great group project. We used tutorial blogs online to gather inspiration and get some ideas before starting. Here is a tutorial that was especially helpful:

http://www.feelslikehomeblog.com/2009/06/how-to-make-a-tutu-a-tutorial/

Piles of candy colored tutus are now all over the clinic and we can’t wait to wear them this Thursday!  Stay tuned for more pictures!

The tutus!

The tutus!

Holiday Traditions

As you can imagine, dealing with a serious illness can throw a wrench in a family’s holiday celebrations. The ultimate bummer for a kid is to be in the hospital on their birthday, Thanksgiving, Hannukah, Christmas, or some other special day.

Trick or treating at Medstar Georgetown University Hospital

 Holiday traditions can be more meaningful for kids than grownups realize. They punctuate the year and give kids a way to remember life events—the year of the big snow; the year the cousins came to visit; the year I was in the hospital. I remember a pair of candles shaped like choirboys in red and white robes that my grandmother put out on the mantle every Christmas. She never lit them, but packed them away and got them out year after year. To me they were very special. We weren’t allowed to touch them, they only came out for a few days each year, and my church didn’t have choir boys at all—so they represented some abstract holiday mystery to me when I was small.

 When I was eight, I came down with mumps a few days before a long-anticipated family vacation. I remember not only feeling sick from the mumps, but guilty for ruining the holiday for the rest of my family. The mumps came and went in a matter of weeks, but my experience helps me understand how young cancer patients must feel. Many times a cancer diagnosis causes a family to call off a vacation or postpone a celebration, and cancer treatment goes on for years, not months!

            

 Most any holiday has special food—latkes, doughnuts and chocolate “gelt” for Hannukah; turkey and pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving; gingerbread and peppermint for Christmas—and every family has its own customs that make the holiday special. If families can bring a little of the holiday to the hospital—decorations, food, games or crafts—it can help the child who is ill feel more a part of the family.

Cardboard Gingerbread House

Anything a family can do to preserve holiday traditions without compromising the patient’s care can help everyone feel more like celebrating. Holidays put the focus on families, because the special things we do bring us together. Decorating the hospital room, bringing “goodies” to share with nurses and visitors, and giving the patient opportunities to make gifts or cards for others can be important ways to be part of the holidays even when you’re sick.

Dress-up for Grownups

For many of our children, Halloween is a festive and exciting time of year – one that can be especially disheartening for those spending it in the hospital. For some of these kids, the typical childhood “trick or treating” from door to door fades into a dream rather than a sugary reality. So, we make an extra special effort to transform the hospital into something extra special for the holiday – including fun decorations, a fantastic party sponsored by Hope for Henry and staff members who dress up in costumes hoping to get a good laugh out of the kids.

So, during the onslaught of Hurricane Sandy, I set to work creating my Halloween alter-ego…

Elizabeth & Katharine in their Halloween Headgear

It was so much fun putting my costume together – adding each detail and imagining the kids’ reactions. With my pile of felt and my hot glue gun (and a few mild burns), I felt like a little kid again. As art therapists, we typically spend a lot of our time and energy encouraging the children and teenagers we work with to find new ways to express themselves through the act of creating. It is especially wonderful (though not rare) when the children drive us to be more creative.

Reliving the simple joys of just “being a kid” during the rainy days of the hurricane also reinforced the importance of helping our patients to more fully experience their childhoods, especially when they are in the hospital. Each one of the children and adolescents we are privileged to work with is so much more than a diagnosis and a medical record number. The art therapists with Tracy’s Kids get to help children expand the world of the hospital and to cope more effectively through art making, a powerful part of childhood for so many.