Each Christmas Eve, while most children are spying on the night sky looking for signs of Santa and his sleigh, thousands of children are in a hospital bed, hooked up to beeping machines, undergoing chemotherapy, surgeries, recovering from ailments and things of the sort.
Their minds may flitter to thoughts of presents and gifts as they wonder if Santa will find their hospital bed. For some families, the cost of medical bills, the fear and worry about their child’s health and lack of sleep and energy may make it impossible to get Christmas shopping done.
John and Monica Kyzar of Larose know all too well the feeling of spending Christmas in the hospital because of a sick child. In 2013 their 10-month-old son, Beau, was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor and had to undergo an 11-hour surgery to have it removed.
He was scheduled to be released from Ochsner’s Hospital for Children on Christmas Eve when he started having seizures and coded. Doctors and nurses were able to revive him and he was sent back into ICU. The Kyzar family wouldn’t be home for Christmas.
“Beau spent his first Christmas fighting for his life. I remember standing next to his bed crying and singing to him ‘Have yourself a merry little Christmas … Next year all our troubles will be miles away,’” Monica said. “I never prayed more in my life.”
With all of the heartache they had been experiencing, John and Monica weren’t able to leave baby Beau’s side to go out and do Christmas shopping. Their three-year old son, Jack, was also staying with them at the Brent House and Santa was supposed to come that night.
At 3 a.m. Beau’s nurse, a young Jewish woman who volunteered to work for Christmas since she didn’t celebrate it, walked up to his crib and hung a little stocking on his IV pole. She then brought in about a dozen wrapped gifts with tags displaying not only Beau’s name, but also Jack’s name.
“God has a way of showing you who God is and that He is with you. I knew at that moment, everything was going to be alright. Even though this nurse didn’t believe in the same things we did, she still helped to spread hope on Christmas,” said Monica.
Monica watched as nurses hung mobiles and stockings near the cribs of the babies in the ICU unit. They had gifts for the patients and their siblings. Jack woke up the next morning along with many other children in Ochsner’s Hospital for Children and saw that Santa really did find his way to them. For a moment, everyone forgot about sickness and pain as the children’s eyes lit up with joy.
Beau was eventually released from the hospital and his progress has been remarkable. Now at three-years-old, he’s where he should be despite all of his challenges. The likelihood of the tumor returning is low, but MRIs are still needed yearly until he turns five.
In December 2014, John and Monica decided they wanted to give back to the hospital and to help provide gifts for children the way others did for theirs. So they began a toy drive they call Beau’s Box.
“There were actually a lot of babies and some children who didn’t have family with them in the hospital. We got to experience their joy upon waking up on Christmas morning to gifts from Santa and we felt we needed to keep that going,” said Monica.
In its first year, Beau’s Box collected 150 presents. Last year they collected more than 650.
All gifts must be new and unwrapped. There are 14 drop off locations in Lafourche and Terrebonne where gifts can be placed in boxes.
The Kyzar family will begin picking up the collection boxes on December 12 to bring to Ochsner on the December 14 so the gifts can be sorted, sanitized and wrapped. Donations should be delivered to the drop boxes by the morning of December 12.
Local drop off locations include: AM Supply, Dr. Gary Birdsall’s Clinic, Dollar General (Golden Meadow and Lockport), Expert Technology, Family Dollar (Larose, Cut Off, Raceland), Town of Golden Meadow, and Lil’ Sweet Peas Boutique (Cut Off and Houma).
For a list of locations in Terrebonne Parish, visit their website at www.beausbox.com.
The greatest need is for gifts for infants and teenagers, but all gifts are appreciated. For a list of item ideas, visit www.ochsner.org/services/child-life-services and scroll down to the more info / donations section.
All items must be new. Used items, latex balloons, food items, games, toys, video games or movies that are violent or inappropriate for children cannot be accepted.
“We’re hoping that despite the economy we still have a good turn out. Anything we can do is wonderful for the children and their families,” said Monica.
So this Christmas as you make your list and check it twice, add in a spot for Beau’s Box and remember that the gift will go to a child who needs a little extra holiday spirit now more than ever.
Beau and Jack Kyzar are shown with Ochsner nurses as they deliver the toys from last year's toy drive.
Posted on Tue, December 6, 2016
by The Lafourche Gazette