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A Holiday In The Hospital

December 21, 2012, 6:06 PM by Casey Wonnenberg

A Holiday In The Hospital
SIOUX FALLS, SD -

For most kids, Christmas is one of the most wonderful times of the year. But what about if they end up sick in the hospital?  Sanford, along with people in the community, are making the holidays brighter for kids who have to be at the hospital.

It wasn't exactly what Melissa Churchill had in mind earlier this year for Christmas shopping.  She's not at Walmart or Toys"R"Us; she's at Sanford Children's Hospital just days before the holiday.

"We started noticing when he was about 14-months-old he was having difficulty walking. He was falling a lot. He had some strange eye movements and then it lead to seizures," Melissa Churchill said.

Churchill's youngest son, Maddox, has been fighting for his life at the hospital for ten weeks. Doctors diagnosed him with Opsoclonus Myoclonus Syndrome, a rare autoimmune disorder where the body's antibodies attack the brain.

"One night he coded, and it took 20 minutes to get him back. They told us there was no way he was going to live," Churchill said.

Even though Maddox has overcome a lot of obstacles, it has been difficult on the entire family. That includes Churchill's three other children.

"They keep asking for their brother home for Christmas. That's something I can't give them," Churchill said.

While Churchill can't bring her baby boy home for Christmas, she is going to make the holidays as bright as possible, thanks to people in the community who have donated toys. Various organizations and individuals have brought toys to Sanford's Christmas Room. Parents who have a child in the hospital can pick out free gifts for all their children.

"There's that emotional strain particularly during the holiday time. There's the financial strain, especially during the holiday season. Anything we can do to lesson that burden for them," Sanford Child Life Manager Carrie Kindopp said.

There's a wide variety of donated gifts; everything from a homemade hat to Minnesota Twins headphones.

"Kids just need to be kids.  To be in the hospital during Christmas time, the fact that we can provide this for them, it's really rewarding for staff," Kindopp said.

Another plus, parents get to pick out and wrap the gifts for their children.

"To be able to pick stuff I know they put on their list, and it's going to make them so happy, even brighten their day just one day, it's totally worth it to me," Churchill said.

While the family will be spending this holiday in the hospital, Churchill is hopeful for happier days ahead.

"They're not sure if he's going to leave, but we're still hopeful. We pray everyday he will," Churchill said.

Right now there are around 50 kids staying at Sanford Children's Hospital. As far as Churchill's Christmas wish, she hopes her son, who is heavily sedated, is awake to enjoy the holiday.

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