Each year, hundreds of women with high-risk pregnancies find themselves staying in the Sharp Mary Birch Perinatal Special Care Unit (PSCU). The PSCU provides specialized care for pregnant women who are facing a variety of complications including high-risk multiples (twins, triplets, etc.), preterm labor, chronic illness and diabetes. Some patients remain at the hospital for weeks or even months as they await the birth of their baby.
While staying in the PSCU for a long period can be challenging, Sharp Mary Birch offers a number of ways to connect with moms and families - including this year's first-ever visit from Santa Claus.
Cate O'Reilly, clinical social worker at Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns, says the idea for this year's Santa visit came after social workers observed many of their PSCU patients struggling to stay positive around the holidays.
"So many moms who end up in the hospital over the holidays have a really difficult time being away from their families and not participating in the celebrations of the season," O'Reilly says. "We felt like there was an opportunity to provide some extra support during this time and give these moms something to be joyful about."
In addition to Santa visiting patients, O'Reilly also organized a gift drive to collect pampering items to help moms in the PSCU feel extra special.
"Sharp Mary Birch employees and community members rallied together to collect a variety of items including nail polish, lotion, fuzzy socks, cosmetics and even activities to keep moms busy, like adult coloring books," says O'Reilly.
Expectant mother Paloma Carlin, who has been in the PSCU for the past six weeks while her husband and son remain at home several hours away, says the visit from Santa really helped brighten her spirits during a difficult time.
"It's so hard to be away from my family for so long, but it's the little things that make a big difference in my day," says Carlin. "All of the staff here has been great at finding ways to bring a little extra cheer to the moms who have to be here over the holidays."
With all of the positive feedback from this year's event, O'Reilly says she would love to make Santa's visit and special gifts a yearly tradition. She hopes to continue to foster support for the project.
Outside of the holidays, Sharp Mary Birch also provides a range of special services to mothers in the PSCU, including
Arts for Healing, pet therapy, support groups, childbirth preparation classes, clergy, Reiki massage and more.