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Gillette Nurses Bring Comfort and Joy

Nurse Kelsey Koppy wearing a holiday hat.

Kelsey Koppy is spending Christmas working as the charge nurse on the Gillette Children's inpatient neurosciences unit. 

“Celebrating Christmas with the children recovering at Gillette Children’s is such a special experience. I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” says registered nurse (RN) Kelsey Koppy who works on the inpatient neurosciences unit.

Koppy and many other Gillette Children’s nurses and staff are working over the holidays to ensure the high level of patient care continues. Many see it as an opportunity to be the embodiment of a Christmas carol and bring “comfort and joy” to children and families going through a health concern during the holidays.

“Christmas is such a magical time of year for so many, and I know it can be difficult to celebrate it while in the hospital,” Koppy adds. “I love working the holidays so I can help to try to make these kids feel the joy that the holidays can bring. Yes, it’s hard to be away from my own family—but celebrating with our kids is special.”

Koppy’s work in the neurosciences unit can be intense. She works with children who have issues with their nervous system, including the brain, spinal cord, and nerves. Koppy’s unit sees children diagnosed with conditions such as cerebral palsy, epilepsy and seizures, neuromuscular conditions, pediatric stroke, and brain injuries. Gillette Children’s is a regional leader in pediatric neurology and pediatric neurosurgery.

A Gillette patient opens a gift in his hospital room.

Thanks to community partners like Target, the Minnesota Twins, the St. Paul Police Department and many others, the rooms of Gillette's patients have the spirit of the season. 

The first Christmas after a life-changing accident

A few years ago Koppy made a special connection with the mother of a child who had a traumatic accident that affected the child’s brain. “It was the first Christmas after the life changing incident. It was a very difficult day for this patient’s mom. Many tears were shed that day, but the nursing staff spent some one-on-one time with this mother,” Koppy recalls. “We sang Christmas carols and made Christmas crafts and, eventually, we managed to achieve a smile from that mom. I left work that day feeling so many things for that family. I also felt so unbelievably blessed to have been part of a such a special moment with them.”

Koppy has worked at Gillette Children’s for more than 4 years and says previous holidays spent with her family were relaxing. Her family would play games, feast on ribs, cheesy potatoes and muffins and watch movies. “I just love spending time with my family,” Koppy says. “Especially seeing my little cousins who are just the age to start really understanding the magic of the holidays.”

Santa, Ms. Claus and members of the St. Paul Police Department visit a Gillette patient in their hospital room.

Santa and Ms. Claus often hitch a ride with the St. Paul Police Department to visit Gillette patients spending the holidays in the hospital. (The reindeer need to rest before the big night!)

Strong bonds with patients and staff

The Gillette Children’s nursing staff cares for some children who have a long road to recovery. “I want people to know how truly inspiring the kids we take care of are,” Koppy says. “These kids deal with some hurdles that most adults would have difficulty coping with. The kids are unbelievably resilient and they never fail to fight and to achieve their absolute best. Gillette is such a magical place.”

Being a nurse during the COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging but Koppy says there’s a bit of a silver lining. “I think this past year and a half has really tested our teamwork and has strengthened our bonds to levels we didn’t know it ever would,” Koppy says. “I’m grateful to be able to spend time with the staff at Gillette—they are some of my best friends!”

Koppy’s hope for the new year is for everyone to stay healthy. When it’s time for her patient’s to be discharged Koppy jokes, “I want you to come back and say ‘hello’ the next time and we won’t have sleepovers!” She says one of the most rewarding parts of her job is to have a child visit and tell her they’re doing great. She says that’s the best gift of all.

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