This is the reality for our Chai Families with or without a pandemic.

These last weeks have brought unique calls to action all over the world. Over these past few days, we here in Canada, are upending our lives putting our health and safety first. At Chai Lifeline, this is our work every day as we support children and families whose lives are impacted by life-threatening or life-long illnesses.

This is in part what life is like when you are met with the realities of life-threatening or lifelong chronic illness. Every day our Chai Lifeline team of caseworkers and fleet of volunteers are out there in the community providing support to our Chai families. They are visiting in hospitals and homes, bringing food, toys and friendship.

While the directions from all levels of government about closures and cancellations and advisories affect everyone, they present challenges for both those who provide and rely on support that is largely in-person.

On Thursday March 12, parents with children being treated at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children received notification outlining temporary changes to family presence and patient visiting policy, with the goal of keeping everyone safe while they are in hospital. Going forward, “no siblings or other visitors are allowed in inpatient and outpatient areas.” While these changes are consistent with measures and practices during viral outbreaks, it does mean that we need to make changes to the way that we provide care to our families.

Our case workers – who personally and directly support our families – are creative and patient. They hold very special relationships with the parents and children and their hospital visits are always a bright moment in what are long and difficult days. When the notifications went out to the parents, one of our case workers got a call from a concerned parent – “does this impact your visits?”

They continue to go to the hospital daily and are arranging to meet family in the lobby or other public area so that they can pass off the special gifts and treats for their children who are inpatients. If parents are unable to leave their child’s room, the care-packages are being left with at the nurses’ station.

The Friday visits are particularly special as the hospital is a much quieter place going into a weekend. With this in mind, our Friday visits and gifts are extra special and include home-baked cookies and challah.

These are uncertain and uncomfortable times for us all as we adopt measures to keep ourselves and each other healthy. We are making changes to our daily lives – increased personal practices and decreased social interactions. Many of us are not going to work or parties or events or the movies. Our children are not going to be in school for at least the next few weeks. They are likewise mostly not going to birthday parties, karate classes or swimming lessons.

This is in part what life is like when you are met with the realities of life-threatening or lifelong chronic illness.

Chai Lifeline Canada will continue to provide as many services as we can – as much as needed.

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You can learn more about what we do and how we support our Chai Lifeline families here.