Stacey Hatton | The many gifts of the holiday season

Every year during the holiday season, a surge of nausea and a tight ball creeps from my lower abdomen and parks itself somewhere between my upper chest and throat.

Sometimes it rears its sappy head when I hear an old song that reminds me of relatives who have passed away or my children ask a question about giving a toy to orphans. Or some Hallmark Cards or silly coffee TV commercial will turn me into a blubbering fool. Why is it that I am the Queen of Laughter for the remaining 11 months, and then, BAM! — Black Friday is done and I’m a mess?

I’m sure genetics has a lot to do with it, but I’ve wanted all of mankind to experience a special holiday season for as long as I can remember. Chuck Dickens nailed it on the head: “God bless us every one!” Love that guy.

As a pediatric nurse, there is a special section of my heart carved out for every Tiny Tim. When kids are sick I want to give everything to help them and their families feel better physically, mentally and spiritually.When I first became a nurse, the first job I received was a pediatric cancer nurse.

I know it sounds awful, but it was truly a gift! I was so excited to get a job working with children that I didn’t really process what I was going to experience. What these kids endured was horrific, and furthermore, I had to be part of the process of implementing their pain. Surgery was a blessing for them. Chemotherapy was treasured. It was their medicine of hope — and I had to remind myself of that every night on my drive alone back to my home, while tears poured down my face.

After I learned the medical side of my job, I decided I


to make drastic changes in order to mentally survive. Laughter and fun needed to enter the workplace for sheer survival. I started with the staff. We would go out after work to support each other and focus on the love and light in our jobs. This released tension and made it easier to return to work to provide positive care to our beloved patients.

Some of the seasoned nurses had already been bonding with patients in a humorous manner. There were tickle fights with stuffed animals and bedside water fights — staff versus parents using huge medicine syringes. The children, families and staff started to release some of the pain, anxiety and nausea — and all were


together. Miraculous medicine!

So I added my own brand of fun: wacky puppet shows, costume parades, bedside song and tap dance productions. Not only did the kids request more songs and fewer nausea and pain meds, but I wasn’t crying as much on my rides home — a big improvement for all.

Even though I am no longer working with these beautiful children, it’s at this time of year when I think of them most, remembering the year I worked Christmas morning and watched them open their gifts Santa had hand-delivered to the floor. The joy on their faces was unmatched at any other Christmas I have witnessed since — true appreciation of the spirit of giving! Honestly, it was my favorite Christmas, too.With the economy the way it has been lately, this holiday season isn’t going to be joyous for many persons around Kansas City. Even in Johnson County, there are numerous families going without and not able to provide food and gifts for loved ones. I hope other families who have a surplus will share some of their gifts with those in need. Food, clothing, money, toys are all in great demand.

And for those of you who are struggling this season, many blessings to you, and try to focus on this: laughter is a wonderful gift, good health is another and spending quality time with your family is truly immeasurable. Some of those families in the hospital I took care of aren’t able to do that anymore. Priceless are those laughs together, and may you and yours have many to add to your memory bank!