UK HealthCare

Superheroes, Athletes Rally to Keep KCH Patients' Spirits High

Patient chatting with football player Luke Fortner on ipad
A Kentucky Children's Hospital patient chats with football player Luke Fortner on an iPad.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 1, 2020) – The coronavirus pandemic has upended every facet of our lives. From school to jobs to worship, everyone in the Commonwealth has felt the effects of staying home for a prolonged period of time. But what if you had to isolate away from your family in an unfamiliar place, and too young to fully understand what was going on? This has been the lonely reality for the patients at Kentucky Children’s Hospital (KCH).

Since March, UK HealthCare implemented a new set of visitor restrictions in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. KCH patients can have two parent or guardian visitors. For the foreseeable future, the KCH has suspended visits from special guests, volunteers, visitors, group activities in the playroom and has temporarily halted community donations of toys and books.

The Child Life staff at KCH came up with some creative solutions. For more than three months, “virtual programming” has provided patients with a digital escape. On donated iPads, patients can interact with family and friends via Zoom. They have virtually visited with UK Football players and other UK student athletes, played games with the volunteers with Jarrett’s Joy Cart superheroes and Star Wars characters and music therapists. Through Lollipop Theatre, a California-based company that brings movies and entertainment to hospitalized children, patients got to interact with actor Jack Black, the voice talents of Scoob! and the animators of the new Trolls movie.

“The virtual programming activities have helped patients feel a sense of normalcy while being in their rooms with these restrictions and the overwhelming stress of everything going on outside of the hospital, said Jenna Cook, KCH Child Life Specialist. “It really makes them feel important when special guests spend time talking with them about their interests; it ultimately helps the patient still feel like a kid and forget about their medical situation for the time being.”

“It’s important to recognize that no matter the uncertainty caused by this virus, there are people dealing with incredibly serious issues that transcend a football season, missing out on graduation or any number of obstacles that have been caused,” said UK football player Luke Fortner. “And these patients do just that. Their ability to see the light in tough times, to put a smile on anyone’s face, to put everything into perspective, is inspiring. And I hope that just maybe, I can help them out too.”

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion three years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" two years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for four straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.