Antonoff’s eldest children, Eliana and Sam, started designing get-well cards for her patients when they were only 6 and 5 years old. They handed them out in person at the hospital over the winter holidays.
“The kids just had a lot of empathy,” says Antonoff. “I’d told them that having to work on Christmas Day wasn’t a lot of fun, but it was even worse for our patients in the hospital, because they were feeling sick, in pain or having to go through unpleasant treatments sometimes to get better.”
The encouraging notes were so well-received that the children expanded their efforts in subsequent years to include more cards for more patients and creative gifts for Thanksgiving. They also started involving their classmates and their two younger siblings, as the latter were born and grew old enough to participate.
“We’d invite over as many kids as the house could hold, then give them a giant pile of art supplies,” says Antonoff. “At Thanksgiving, we went to a craft store and found tiny little boxes. Eliana decorated them with fake leaves, little trinkets and positive messages of thankfulness.”
Finding new ways to deliver hope during COVID-19 pandemic
Life as we knew it changed with the spread of coronavirus and social distancing, says Antonoff, recalling her kids’ disappointment when their sports, school activities, and choir trip were cancelled, along with their spring break plans. “Then they started thinking about all of the people in the hospital who can’t have visitors anymore,” she says.
The children were eager to continue sharing their messages of hope. So, Antonoff took their efforts digital. She had her kids and their friends take pictures of their get-well cards and email or text them to her. Then, she created an album of more than 150 of the photos on her phone. She’s been sharing the pictures with her patients ever since, usually one at a time through AirDrop or MyChart.
“People love it,” says Antonoff. “They cry and get very emotional.”
Providing emotional connection during the COVID-19 pandemic
Antonoff was thrilled to be able to keep her children’s sweet tradition going. Not only does it make her patients feel better, but it helps her stay connected to them emotionally.
“Patients are in such a weird place right now during the coronavirus pandemic,” she says. “They’re receiving treatment with no family or friends by their side. They get their temperature checked at every hospital entrance, and staff is limited.”
“Not touching the patients unless I need to examine them is also just bizarre,” she adds. “And I can’t give them a hug or a handshake. So, they are really grateful for these little gestures. I just wanted to keep giving them positive vibes somehow.”
A desire to help others
Antonoff’s children were also pleased that their mother found a way to let them keep sharing hope with her patients.
“If I got sick and was stuck in the hospital, I would feel really lonely,” explains Eliana, now 12. “I want to help people who feel like that."