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Traditional Fun, Thrills for Shut-Ins : Hospitalized Children Get Halloween, Too

October 28, 1986|LAURA OGATA

The treats are pretty much the same. But the trick is to let the youngsters collect their Halloween goodies without ever setting a foot outdoors, or, in some cases, even getting out of bed.

These are the little ghosts and goblins who will be confined to area hospitals on Halloween.

Instead of door-to-door canvassing, they'll be going ward to ward--those who are able to leave their beds.

"If a child is real sick in ICU (intensive care unit), we'll hang decorations over his bed and also hang a costume over him," said Carolyn Spungin, director of Child Life Services at UCI Medical Center.

The children at UCI got an early taste of Halloween Saturday when students from University High School threw them a party featuring presents and candy. Bed-bound Andrew Castaneda, 2, his leg bandaged from a car injury, was wheeled into the celebration where he munched on potato chips and occupied himself with a plastic pumpkin. Claudia Macias, 8, wearing makeup and dressed as a witch, said she was laughing "because it's scary." Claudia's father said she faces brain surgery.

More to Come

Still to come at UCI are pumpkin-carving, pumpkin-seed mosaic making and, on Friday, the big party featuring trick-or-treating, a magician and hospital workers dressed as Martians.

The children in Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian, meanwhile, will hear "pumpkin carols" sung by a local Mormon group on Halloween. The songs will be accompanied by gifts and candy.

Childrens Hospital of Orange County, which has the area's largest number of hospitalized children, also plans a bash.

The masked moppets there--about 110 children are expected to spend Halloween in the hospital--will compete in a "pin-the-wart-on-the-witch" party and brave a haunted house. And they will be captured by a crew of good-hearted pirates--costumed recreation therapists and volunteers--who will guide them through the hospital.

"We dress the kids up in costumes, masks--the whole bit," said Linda Cox, a therapist at Childrens Hospital. "Even if they have IVs or are in wheelchairs or wagons, we'll take them (trick-or-treating). One year I took a kid around on a gurney."

Like their counterparts on the outside, the youngsters at Childrens Hospital can hardly wait for the big day.

"It's always fun (at Halloween) in here," said Danny Lander, 14, a cystic fibrosis patient who also spent last Halloween at the hospital.

"They have a haunted house here. Last year, I had purple, orange and all different colored hair and a Dracula face. I love dressing up and going to all the parties. I don't get tired--I have a lot of energy. But some of the other kids get tired pretty easily."

Michelle Jaeger, 13, another cystic fibrosis patient at Childrens Hospital, who, like Lander, spent last Halloween there, said, "Last year I was an elf. This year, I might be a cheerleader."

Michelle admitted that she was a little nervous at first when she confronted the haunted house last year but added, "I was younger then. We had to walk through with someone (on the staff). But it was fun."

Renee Lee, 13, also a cystic fibrosis patient, isn't sure whether she'll spend Halloween at home or at the hospital. Either way, she'll be decked out for the night: "My brother's going to lend me his football uniform."

Wards Decorated

The wards at Childrens Hospital are already adorned with crepe paper and other decorations. Memos have been sent to all departments, reminding workers that the youngsters will be brought around to receive candy and gifts.

"Sugar-free candy is given to the diabetics, and all candy must be individually wrapped," Cox said. "We encourage them (staff members) to give toys (rather than candy)."

Cox pointed out that patients are encouraged to make or choose their own outfits.

"It gives each child some control, and that goes along with our philosophy," she explained. "When kids are in the hospital, they lose a lot of control over their lives. We're here to help ease the stress."

Another child busily preparing for Halloween at Childrens Hospital is Trica Smith, 9, a muscular dystrophy patient who must spend part of each day in an iron lung.

While inside the respirator the other day, she gestured as best she could--with her head and eyes--to the wall behind her bed.

A mobile featuring a witch, spider and pumpkin hung there.

"I made it myself," she said proudly.

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