UK HealthCare

No tricks, just treats for the young patients at Kentucky Children’s Hospital

image of a child dressed like Luigi getting candy at KCH
image of a baby dressed like a pumpkin
image of a little girl petting a therapy dog
image of little boy picking out a toy from a cart
image of Dr. Day singing to a little boy
image of staff in costume interacting with patients
image of Dr. Day singing to a patients
image of patient dressed in a monkey in a high chair
Image of KCH staff dressed as the Sanderson Sisters
image of patient dressed as a doctor getting treats
image of Dr. Newman interacting with patient dressed as Mario
image of two young patients interacting with a therapy dog.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Nov. 1, 2022) A petite princess peers out of her room, with an excited smile and a bag in outstretched arms. A pint-sized pirate points out familiar characters who are pushing carts filled with treats. Normally, these kids would be going door-to-door in their neighborhoods collecting candy, but today, the treats are coming to them.

“Reverse Trick-or-Treat” is an annual event at Kentucky Children’s Hospital. Rather than the kids making the rounds and demanding treats under the threat of tricks, staff from all over UK HealthCare go door-to-door throughout the inpatient unit, handing out goodies to patients sitting outside their rooms. Patients who don’t feel well enough to participate hang a bag on their closed door. 

“Halloween is a big deal for kids — it’s the highlight of their year,” said Jennifer Guilliams, manager of Child and Family Life at KCH. “Being in the hospital doesn’t mean they have to miss out on the fun. They can’t go trick-or-treating, so we bring trick-or-treating to them.”  

Groups of minions, M&Ms, french fries and other creative groups from various departments dropped off candy, toys, Play-Doh and coloring books. They were joined by Scratch and the UK cheerleaders and Buckles the horse from Keeneland.

For the past two years, the event has been scaled down due to COVID-19 and visitor restrictions. While still not back to its pre-pandemic scale, more groups from various hospital departments can participate. And for the kids, that means more candy and treats. 

One little girl lifted the hammer of the Mighty Thor. One boy, dressed as Mario, was delighted to see Mark Newman, M.D., executive vice president of health affairs for UK HealthCare, dressed the same. 

While this is a regular event at KCH, the number of participating patients is not. The hospital is operating at full capacity due to the rise of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Roughly 20 to 30 patients are being admitted daily for intensive interventions, such as frequent suctioning, supplemental oxygen or other respiratory support. 

“Capacity has been a major challenge for us,” said Lindsay Ragsdale, M.D., chief medical officer of KCH. “We expanded our beds multiple times, increased staffing and shifted all our resources to take care of the kids.” 

But for the patients and their families, they haven't noticed. Being in the hospital can be scary, but the staff make sure that the kids don't feel like they're missing out.

"It is so important to make sure the kids have a sense of normalcy even during the most challenging times," said Guilliams. "Even if we can put a smile on just one of those faces, it makes it all worth it."

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

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