Birmingham, Ala. (Dec. 21, 2023) — The holidays can be tough on a family, especially a family who must spend it in the hospital. The staff in the cardiovascular unit at Children’s of Alabama saw the impact of the hospitalization and wanted to do something about it.
“We decided that the holidays are so special around the rest of the hospital with the beautiful trees and decorations,” said Samantha Floyd, a pediatric cardiology social worker at Children’s of Alabama. “We wanted something in the unit that was also special and special to cardiology and our patients that are going to be here over the holidays.”
In 2014, a Christmas tradition started. Floyd says that each year, beginning in January, the staff creates a list of patients who have had surgery or transplants. By the fall, the staff sends the families a letter asking them to send an ornament in honor or memory of their child. The ornaments are then distributed between two trees in the Cardiac Care Unit. Floyd says the parents choose which tree they prefer to have their ornaments on.
“I think one of the most important things in talking with our medical director about getting this started back in 2014 was that we wanted families that were here on the unit over the holidays to be able to have hope and faith and to take a break to see the beautiful tree with the children’s face on it,” said Floyd.
Since 2014, the staff has received nearly 150 ornaments. Floyd says each ornament tells a story about a child with congenital heart disease.
“One of the ornaments on the tree is of a little girl from South Alabama, who came in at just a couple of weeks of life with a new diagnosis,” said Floyd. “She was so sick, and everyone was scared, but she pulled through. She is now in the second grade, recently attended the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and got to dance with the Rockettes.”
Floyd says not only does this uplift the staff, but it is also a chance for the parents to reflect and remember.
“Parents tend to be very excited that we remember their child and that we want to honor or memorialize them,” said Floyd. “The parents know that their child is not forgotten or that the hard time they have been through is not forgotten.”
Floyd says the ornaments are placed on the trees each year.
“Just like your Christmas tree is at home, it is full of memories and family history, and what’s important to you, that’s what this tree is for us here at Children’s of Alabama,” said Floyd. “It’s the history of the cardiac service line.”
For more information on pediatric cardiovascular services, click here.