By Sandra Kucharski, MS, RN
The Boston Globe did a very nice job of highlighting the issue of pediatric palliative care last week. Both palliative care and hospice care offer real alternatives to doctor-prescribed suicide.
The article demonstrated just how pediatric palliative care can make a difference. However, in noting that there are only two “free-standing” palliative care facilities in the country, readers might think that supportive care for the pediatric population at the end of life is rare indeed. In Massachusetts, there are 10 licensed hospice facilities across the state that are in the state’s Pediatric Palliative Care Network.
One of the providers in the network is the Notre Dame Pedi Pals program in Worcester. On their web site, they tell the story of how one Pedi Pals patient had his final wish granted thanks to the creativity and kindness of a very special nurse. The child’s last wish was to meet Santa. To nurse John O’Leary it didn’t matter that we had not yet celebrated Halloween. He jumped into action and brought the little boy the magic of Santa with as much authenticity as you could imagine. He arrived at night and made sure he made his entrance with a “Ho, ho, ho!”. The boy and his family experienced the true spirit of Christmas; it just happened to be two months early.
This is not atypical of the kind of thoughtfulness and compassion brought to palliative care by these healthcare professionals.