DANVILLE — Katy Mahon spent her 14th birthday Monday in a hospital room at Geisinger Janet Weis Children’s Hospital and today, she’ll do the same for Christmas.
Being home for the holidays is akin to spending a shift, a night or longer at the hospital for some patients and staff of Geisinger Medical Center.
“Obviously, I’m not excited for it,” said Mahon, 14, of Lewisburg, a kidney transplant recipient who was admitted when her blood levels spiked.
Her room was adorned with a dozen or so birthday balloons. As many cupcakes sat in wait for a small in-room celebration. Still, nothing for Christmas.
“We’re just not quite ready to admit to it yet, I think,” said Mahon’s mother, Amy.
Elsewhere, decorated trees stand in corridors and holiday lights hang from walls. In a few corners, Christmas music plays. Today, wrapping paper will be torn from gifts inside patient rooms, and it’s expected holiday dishes and homemade pie will be snuck inside, too.
So, no, it’s not home for those who celebrate Christmas but for those who do and are looking to make the best of it, at least it’s something.
“We understand it’s hard for kids to be here. This is not a place they want to be. Adults don’t want to be here. We get it. Some of the worst days of your life happen here,” said Ty Bailey, a registered nurse with the Emergency Department.
Bailey volunteered to work today for a coworker — a mother of two children. Bailey already hosted a pre-Christmas family celebration. It’s hard to predict how busy the emergency room will get but Bailey expects traffic accidents, cooking mishaps and standard illness could keep her shift busy.
Children who end up in the Emergency Department, whether they’re visiting or a patient themselves, could receive a stocking from the hospital’s pediatric outreach program, Bailey said.
Bailey spoke to wives and mothers who end up at the hospital on Christmas Day, longing to return home where there children are visiting from out of town. Husbands and fathers can feel the same, she said. A stay at the hospital, short or long, is harder during holidays, Bailey said.
“The added stress is what makes it tough,” Bailey said.
Monica Glunz, a registered nurse, is working her first Christmas Day. She’ll add some holiday attire to her standard-issue nursing scrubs — perhaps earrings and a headband. She’s hoping little things like earrings will serve to remind patients of the holiday and hopes it helps raise their spirits.
“We’ll tell them Merry Christmas. If we’re allowed, we’ll sneak them a little bit of dessert from the break room,” Glunz said. “We sneak them pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving.”
“People just want to go home beforehand and when they don’t, I think that’s when it will hit and they’ll be a little more sad. We’ll try to make them happy,” Glunz said.
Katy Mahon spent a Halloween and Thanksgiving in the hospital before. Last year, she was released one day before her birthday, three days before Christmas. Her mother saw how staff prepared for Christmas for the children and their families staying at Janet Weis.
“Presents, events leading up to Christmas, carolers, Santa Claus comes here, they can talk to Santa Claus with iPads. They do a real good job keeping it festive,” Amy Mahon said.
Margarita Bellido, of Milton, feels the staff has done a good job of making her feel at ease since she was admitted following a traffic accident Dec. 13 on the Susquehanna River bridge in Milton.
Bellido broke both ankles, suffered six fractured ribs and a fractured clavicle. She’s bed-ridden, for now, and won’t be home to carry on family traditions like lifting a cloth to reveal a nativity scene on Christmas Eve.
“We have friends and family coming in who will bring Hispanic dishes to feel more like Christmas Eve,” said Bellido’s daughter, Maria Nieves, who also was injured in the crash but isn’t hospitalized.
“I got her a little Christmas tree back there,” Nieves said, motioning to a tiny tree atop a dresser in the hospital room. “This year she didn’t have time to put up her Christmas tree.”