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West Jordan Journal

When a homecoming dance is just what the doctor ordered

Nov 18, 2019 04:59PM ● By Alison Brimley

Staff members helped put on a private homecoming dance at the Primary Children’s Hospital unit at Intermountain Riverton Hospital. (Photo courtesy Intermountain Healthcare)

By Alison Brimley | [email protected]

Hailey Winn, a senior at Copper Hills High School, was eager to attend her homecoming dance this year. She picked out her shoes and hemmed her dress, getting it ready to go. But after she ended up in the emergency room the night before the dance, she was disappointed to have to call her date and explain that she wouldn’t be able to make it. 

Imagine her surprise when her date showed up at the hospital the next evening. Staff members at the Primary Children’s Hospital unit at Intermountain Riverton Hospital had gone above and beyond to throw a homecoming for two in Hailey’s hospital room, complete with decorations, flowers and ice chips in fancy glasses (the only thing Hailey could eat). 

Hailey has Crohn’s disease, and after being diagnosed recently, she spent much of the summer being sick. She was ready to return to life as usual. Then, on Sept. 13 — the night of the homecoming football game — she started running a fever. She had developed an infection related to her condition. 

Patient Hailey Winn greets her date, Logan Christensen, who surprised her at the “homecoming” thrown by hospital staff. (Photo courtesy Intermountain Healthcare)

 Hailey had told her caregivers after arriving at the hospital about her foiled plans for the next day. The morning after Hailey’s ER visit, charge nurse Megan Jenkins showed up for duty and was told by the previous night’s nurses about their plan to do something for Hailey if she wasn’t well enough to go home by that evening. 

As the day went on, Jenkins reported, it looked unlikely that Hailey would be able to return home. Caregivers got to work, collaborating to pull it all off in a single day. 

One staff member found out from her child, also a Copper Hills student, that the theme of the dance was “Around the World.” Staff then printed off photographs of tourist attractions to match the theme. One went to Harmons to pick up a last-minute corsage and boutonniere. When Harmons’ employees learned who it was for, they donated the flowers at no cost. 

A room next door to Hailey’s had been vacated earlier that day, so nurses rearranged the furniture and used that as the venue of the makeshift dance. They hung green and blue streamers to match Copper Hills’ colors. Then, Hailey’s date, Logan Christensen, arrived and together they watched the movie “Tangled.”

“All day, we were excited,” Jenkins said. The nurses hurried to finish their regular work on time so that they could get everything ready for Hailey’s special night. 

In pediatric units, Jenkins said child life specialists are often employed to coordinate activities to help children have fun despite the challenges of being hospitalized. Games and toys help cheer up younger children, but for older teens, it’s a little bit harder. The efforts to bring a little fun to Hailey’s stay paid off. Hailey says it wasn’t awkward to have a date in the hospital; it was fun. 

“This meant the world to me,” she said.

For Hailey, complications from Crohn’s have led to malnourishment, feeding tubes and surgeries over the last few months. Now, Hailey said she’s steadily regaining use of her intestines, part of which were removed in surgery. 

“I’m starting to be able to eat real food,” she said. 

It hasn’t been easy for her. 

“Sometimes I want to scream and say it’s ruining my life,” she said. “But it’s teaching me patience; it’s teaching me to be more sympathetic and empathetic, and it’s teaching me more about myself. It’s teaching me how to love myself even with things that are different about me.”

Hailey’s caregivers at the hospital have helped her make the best of an undesirable situation. 

“I always say if you have to get sick, this is the place to be,” Hailey said. “I love my nurses. These are people that have become my friends, that I trust, because they’ve taken such good care of me.”