How this Montreal doctor and her team cheer up sick kids on Christmas Day

·2 min read
This is the fourth consecutive year that Dr. Laurie Plotnick has worked on Christmas Day. She is the medical director of the hospital's emergency department.  (Submitted by Montreal Children's Hospital Foundation - image credit)
This is the fourth consecutive year that Dr. Laurie Plotnick has worked on Christmas Day. She is the medical director of the hospital's emergency department. (Submitted by Montreal Children's Hospital Foundation - image credit)

A hospital room is one of the last places a child wants to spend Christmas Day, but that's where seven-year-old Séanne Theriault was last year, while battling Stage-4 liver cancer.

She's been in remission for the last five months.

As he remains hopeful about what comes next, Séanne's father can't help but look back and be grateful for how staff at the Montreal Children's Hospital helped them make the best of a nightmare scenario one year ago.

Due to COVID-19 rules, when Séanne spent Christmas in hospital, the number of visitors allowed was limited.

"It was the furthest thing from normal. You couldn't be one parent at a time in the hospital because of COVID. Her brother and sister couldn't visit," said Stephen Thériault, her father.

"You try and bring some normalcy to the child who doesn't realize quite what's going on."

Submitted by the Montreal Children's Hospital Foundation
Submitted by the Montreal Children's Hospital Foundation

"They come in with toys and games," he said. "Even though COVID had hit, they were still present and I think they made our stay a lot more enjoyable."

For Dr. Laurie Potnick, putting children at ease during such a difficult time is among the top priorities for her and her staff.

She's working on Christmas Day for the fourth consecutive year at the Montreal Children's Hospital.

"This is a time where our patients who are children are looking forward to the most and to have to be over the holidays, whether they have to be hospitalized or they're coming to the emergency department is difficult," said Potnick, who is the medical director of the hospital's emergency department.

"We are decorated,we are wearing [Santa or elf] hats to cheer up the children and their families."

She also says that thanks to donations, they are also able to offer Christmas gifts to the children.

Simon Martel/CBC
Simon Martel/CBC

ER visits for kids on Christmas are common, doctor says

When Potnick works on Christmas, it's usually a busy day.

Most clinics are closed, leaving parents of children with ailments or illnesses very few options. According to the Montreal Children's Hospital Foundation, hundreds of patients spend Dec. 25 at the facility every year.

"It can be a little quiet early Christmas morning but it certainly picks up as the day goes on," said Potnick, who said that the support her staff gives to families is often reciprocated.

"The families, in general, are very understanding and are quite supportive of us as well [given that] the staff are working on Christmas."

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