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What I Learned about Love from Patients and Their Families by Patti Maloney, George Mark Children’s House

What I Learned about Love from Patients and Their Families by Patti Maloney, George Mark Children’s House

I witness love every day in my job as a social worker at George Mark Children’s House. George Mark is a place of support and caring for children who have life-limiting illnesses and their families.

A large part of what makes George Mark special is the families who put their trust and faith in us to help their children and them in their most difficult and vulnerable times in their lives.

We offer pediatric palliative care through the following services – Respite Care, Transitional Care, End of Life Care, and Bereavement Care. Palliative care focuses on reducing the stress and pain of illness whatever the diagnosis. Families value our unique approach that brings together a caring professional team who treat their child as a whole person with medical, emotional and social needs.

While many of our children know their parents’ voices or their scent, most of the children don’t speak or respond to their caregiver or the world around them, except when they become over-stimulated and irritable. Many have never said mama or dada or any other words. These special children and teens have never hugged their parent or told them they love them. Yet, even without any reinforcement from them, their parents tell them and show them how much they are loved continually.

A mother visited with her child every day while she stayed at George Mark and would sing her favorite song to her. Even though her singing was out of key and she improvised many of the lyrics, the mother sang from her heart and the love she shared with her daughter could be heard in every note. This unexpected interaction caused tears for touring nursing students, who happened upon the pair. Now that her daughter is deceased, her mother holds onto the memories which keep her daughter close to her.

After helping to put curlers in his daughter’s hair, her father asked for curlers in his hair as well. When his daughter saw him, although weak, she lifted her head and laughed, giving both a special moment without fear or pain. Another father shaved his head after his young son lost his hair from the treatments he received and the two would proudly show off their “bald” heads.

Throughout illness and ultimately death for many, deep sadness and fear are balanced with the love that the child and family share.

This never-ending love continues on after death as families find ways to remember these moments and honor their children.

Love is the greatest medicine of all.

Patti Maloney, MSW

George Mark Children’s House


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