Away From Home for the Holidays

By Kelly Brooks-Staub

Nurses Cathy Trentacoste (seated) and Christina Meekins (right), along with nurse manager Joan Diamond (left), helped a hospitalized mom celebrate Christmas with her family. Photo by Will Kirk

“How can we help?” asked Cathy Trentacoste, RN, a nurse clinician in the Johns Hopkins labor and delivery unit. “I will be here on Christmas Day and I would love to assist with any needs that the family has.”

Trentacoste was concerned about Dana*, a patient who had been in long-term ante-partum care and would remain so on the night of Christmas Eve. With a three-year-old daughter to care for, Dana and her husband were trying to find a way to spend their holiday together as a family. They were considering sleeping in Dana’s hospital room the night before Christmas, but the child was afraid that Santa wouldn’t be able to find her if she spent the night at Hopkins.

“It was heartbreaking,” Trentacoste says. “This mom was stuck in the hospital and couldn’t go home, so I thought perhaps Christmas could come to her.” Trentacoste, who has an eight-month-old of her own at home, approached nurse manager Joan Diamond, RN with a plan.

“Our unit is committed to family-centered care,” says Diamond, “so I of course offered unwavering support to Cathy in assisting Dana and her family. We do whatever we have to do for our patients.”

Trentacoste worked with the parents and coordinated with colleagues to hide the gifts in a storage closet and have them delivered to Dana’s room in the middle of the night. Early Christmas morning, the child awoke when a technician closed the hospital room door. “She was just sure that Santa had been there,” Trentacoste reports. “The gifts in the room were proof that he had come all the way to Hopkins to visit her.”

Two weeks after the holiday, the family received another gift-a healthy baby girl. “In the end, it didn’t matter where the family was that December morning,” says Diamond. “Thanks to Cathy, they still got to have a real Christmas.”

*Not her real name

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