May 8, 1998

Children’s Hospital event to remember those who are gone

Children's Hospital event to remember those who are gone

Patient families and medical center faculty and staff will gather Sunday, May 17, to remember the lives of children who have died while being cared for by Vanderbilt Children¹s Hospital.

The Children¹s Hospital Bereavement Committee is sponsoring the event, called "A Time for Remembering," as part of its support for family and staff as they grieve the loss of these children.

"Vanderbilt Children¹s Hospital cares for many children with a variety of health care needs," said Holly Nelson, chaplain for Children¹s Hospital.

"It is wonderful when we can celebrate the birth of a healthy child or the return to health of a child who has been ill or injured. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. It brings great sadness when we cannot heal a child¹s illness or injury. The death of a child has a profound impact on parents, family and friends, but also those of us who have cared for that child and family."

Organizers chose the name "A Time for Remembering" to set the tone for uplifting gathering to help reunite families with the health care team at Children¹s Hospital, whom they often consider to be very special people in their lives, Nelson said.

"The health care team is looked to for support during a lengthy illness and greeted as old friends after multiple hospital admissions or clinic visits," she said. "When the family no longer needs medical care for their child, the sudden end to this support system is often an unacknowledged loss by family and staff."

The event will be 3 p.m.-5 p.m. at the University Club and will begin with a 30-minute program including special music by local songwriter Mary Bomar Ritter. In memory of their children, parents will plant begonias in a special "Children¹s Garden" on the Medical Center North lawn near Garland Avenue. The event will conclude with a reception at the University Club and a time for conversation between staff and families.

"A Time for Remembering" is expected to become an annual event, and a special memorial Children¹s Garden is being planned for the new Vanderbilt Children¹s Hospital to be built on campus.

The May 17 gathering will specifically honor children who died between June 1995 and December 1997. Any staff members who were involved in the care of these children ‹ directly or indirectly ‹ are invited to attend, Nelson said.

"Staff members in support areas such as housekeeping or nutrition services are also very much a part of that extended family and often share a strong bond with these families while their children are being cared for at Children¹s Hospital," she said.

The Children¹s Hospital bereavement program began in 1995 as a formal means to support families of patients who have died. Its components include in-service training to help staff members better assist bereaved families, communication with the family soon after the child¹s death, on his or her birthday and on the anniversary of the child¹s death, and connection of families to bereavement support resources in their communities.

"We want to make sure the families know that they and their children are not forgotten," Nelson said.