Friday, March 28, 2014

Lacing up for kids’ care

INSPIRING:From left, Chapin, Timulty and MacDonald

For marathoners Jeanne MacDonald, MD, of the MGH Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Catherine Chapin, MD, a pediatric resident, and Kevin Timulty, a Braintree police officer, giving back is part of their everyday jobs. But this year, they are taking their role one step further by running the Boston Marathon on behalf of the services provided by MassGeneral Hospital for Children’s (MGHfC) Coordinated Care Clinic and Pediatric Palliative
Care Service.

The two departments often work together to care for children with serious illnesses. The Coordinated Care Clinic works with pediatric patients facing chronic and complex health issues, helping them navigate the often confusing system of health care specialists. The Palliative Care Service focuses on maximizing a child’s quality of life by providing pain and stress relief, smoothing transitions in care, making difficult choices, and giving the family a better patient experience.

Timulty learned about the team last year from his fiancée who works at MGHfC. “I just thought what a great experience it would be to raise money for all these kids, and I knew I had to do it this year,” he says.

For Chapin, the decision to run came from her personal experience seeing the Palliative Care Service in action across the hospital. “They help ensure that kids with often-debilitating conditions have the best possible quality of life,” Chapin says. “I thought it would be great to support them.”

MacDonald says there is a common misconception that the palliative care staff only helps families at the end of a child’s life. “We can’t predict who’s going to die and who isn’t. Supporting a child with a life threatening illness can go on for years,” she says. “Pediatric Palliative Care recognizes that fact and supports the family and cares for the life of the child.”

MacDonald also has seen first-hand how the palliative care staff serves as an anchor to families. When children have complicated medical issues, parents can be overwhelmed by the information provided by varying specialists. She says the medical team tries to stay positive for the families, but it is the palliative care team that allows the families to ask the bigger questions, like “What if this gets worse?”

“I think the families appreciate having someone who will have difficult discussions, if need be, about end of life situations or talk to them about options for different types of care,” Chapin says. “Doing the maximum type of care isn’t always the best option for some families. The pediatric palliative care staff will bring in alternative options for families along with what the medical care team is planning.”

They also talk about what is important to the families – from medical care to emotional experience.

“They sort of open our eyes,” MacDonald says. “They help us step outside our own little world and step into the family’s world.”

For more information about this year’s teams visit,

This story is part of a series of articles that MGH Hotline will publish about the teams and team members supporting the MGH as part of this year’s Boston Marathon.

Read more articles from the 03/28/14 Hotline issue.



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