SPREADING SMILES: Amanda Castroll, center seated, with her mother, Jill, to her left, celebrates her 21st birthday with a group of MGH and MGHfC caregivers.
MOST YOUNG PEOPLE long for the day they turn 21 – the year they are considered an adult. But for MGH patient Amanda Castroll, her 21st birthday was more than that; it was one of the happiest days she’s had since she was hospitalized in November. While receiving care at the MGH, Castroll has spent her free time working with an arts therapy specialist and writing in her journal. She and her mother, Jill, also have appreciated working with MassGeneral Hospital for Children (MGHfC) Pediatric Palliative Care Service staff members Patricia O’Malley, MD; Caitlin Merrill, NP; and Sandy Clancy, PhD, who have provided both with support and comfort. Most recently and with help from a former MGHfC patient’s mother, Ally Dryden, the team organized a birthday party for Castroll at the hospital. Approximately 25 MGH and MGHfC caregivers spanning nine disciplines attended.
“Amanda has been hospitalized since the day before Thanksgiving,” says O’Malley. “Because she has spent all of the winter holidays at the hospital, she told us that she really wanted to make her 21st birthday special. Her life experiences have in many ways made her an adult before her time, and we wanted to celebrate this milestone with her.”
Upon learning of Castroll’s wish, O’Malley shared it with Dryden, who recently had established Calling All Angels – a foundation created in memory of her 14-year-old son Jimmy, a former MGHfC patient who died last fall from a congenital disorder. Dryden responded by donating funds to help purchase gifts, a cake and refreshments for Castroll’s party.
“When Jimmy passed away last September, it was one week before my family was to host a fundraiser to help me get back on my feet due to Jimmy being hospitalized for the entire summer,” says Dryden. “The event ended up as a beautiful memorial, and we decided to continue the foundation in Jimmy’s memory to help other families and their critically ill children or anyone who needs a smile. There is no age limit or exception. Our mission is to bring joy and laughter one smile at a time, just like Jimmy always did. We are thrilled to have been able to be a part of Amanda’s birthday. She deserves everything wonderful that comes her way. We look forward to doing more for others.”
“I had such a great birthday,” says Castroll. “It’s been so special seeing my caregivers and having a special day just for me. I’m so grateful to everyone.” n