Pediatric patients at USA Health Children’s & Women’s Hospital delighted by virtual visits with Senior Bowl football players
"To have these players and mascots take time to visit with our patients and their families – even virtually - is a real boost for their spirits," said Chris Jett, administrator for Children’s & Women’s Hospital.
By Casandra Andrews
Most years on the day before the Senior Bowl, dozens of players descend on USA Health Children’s & Women’s Hospital with a specific goal in mind: To meet and share autographs, photos and even a few fist bumps with young patients. Because of safety measures put in place during the pandemic, the annual visit was moved to a virtual format this year.
On Friday morning, in a conference room inside Hancock Whitney Stadium, players used iPads and the Zoom platform to communicate with young patients who were eight miles away at the hospital in midtown Mobile. During their chats, the athletes wrote the names of the young patients on yellow heart-shaped stickers they plan to wear on their helmets during Saturday’s football game.
A few former patients were able to meet the players in person at the stadium as part of Special Spectators, a non-profit program that aims to match sick and injured children with athletic experiences such as the all-star football game. A few well-known collegiate mascots including Big Al also met the youngsters at the stadium, tossing footballs and giving high fives.
"To have these players and mascots take time to visit with our patients and their families – even virtually -- is a real boost for their spirits," said Chris Jett, administrator for Children’s & Women’s Hospital. "We have children battling some very difficult situations and aren’t always able to leave the hospital to attend football games or other activities. It’s amazing to see a child’s face light up when they talk with the Senior Bowl participants."
The Senior Bowl visits are organized as part of the hospital's Mapp Child and Family Life Program, which is aimed at normalizing a child's stay at Children's & Women's Hospital.
The Mapp Child and Family Life Program supports families with hospitalized children by utilizing child life specialists, recreational therapists and full-time certified teachers who specialize in education, preparation and support activities. The goal for these specialists is to minimize stress and help children and families better cope with their healthcare experience.