By Carla David
Public & Community Relations Manager at Ministry Saint Joseph’s Hospital
MARSHFIELD — Alexandra Dickinson, 17, of Wausau, a patient on the pediatric unit at Marshfield’s Ministry Saint Joseph’s Children’s Hospital undergoing treatment for a collapsed lung, was really looking forward to her high school junior prom at Wisconsin Valley Lutheran High School in Wausau in early May. When she learned her surgery would have to be done sooner, preventing her from going home for the weekend to attend the event, she was devastated.
“I was extremely sad,” Dickinson said. “This is my junior year, and my boyfriend is a senior, so it was his last year at school, and I already had the dress and was so looking forward to wearing it.”
Enter the child life specialists on the unit, who, after being told of the situation by Dickinson’s physician, decided to bring the prom — or at least part of it — to her.
“We got in touch with some of her friends, including her boyfriend, to come and surprise her, all dressed up and ready for pictures,” said Nicole Austin, BS, CCLS, CTRS, certified child life specialist at the hospital. “Her parents brought the dress, and she had her hair and makeup done. We decorated the patio area on the unit to match the theme of her own prom, which was ‘Rustic Romance.’ We put on tablecloths, made a sign, and strung lights. We had snacks and ordered pizza for dinner. The ambiance was that of a well-designed ‘hospital prom.’”
Staff also managed to get permission for Dickinson to be off the unit for an hour, so the prom goers went outside to a nearby courtyard to have more photos taken near blossoming trees.
One of the highlights of the night was when Dickinson learned that she had been nominated for prom queen. Thanks to Skype/FaceTime, she was able to “dance” with her king at the event.
“I was so surprised,” Dickinson said. “It helped to know that my friends at school cared that much and wanted to do something special for me,” she said. “I got to wear my dress and was able to be a part of everything even though I couldn’t attend myself, and I can’t thank the people at the hospital enough. It really meant a lot to me.”