Bertram Rantin

Deck the hospital halls with song

brantin@thestate.comDecember 21, 2012 

— It was a highly anticipated trip to Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital for the cheerful group of teenagers.

Nearly all of them had walked through those same doors at one time as patients, but this time they were delivering their own prescriptions of joy through song.

Choruses of “Deck the Hall,” “Jingle Bells” and other holiday favorites echoed through the hospital wings Thursday morning as members of Lasting Impressions sung carols and delivered greetings to young patients. The group is made of former and current teenage cancer patients who support other youth undergoing treatment for cancer.

“What are we going to sing first?” Children’s Hospital music therapist Rebecca Kelly asked the roughly two dozen teenagers before they began their spirited journey through the hospital halls.

Dr. Julian Ruffin, coordinator of psychosocial program at the Children’s Cancer Center, said no one appreciated the value of those visits more than the morning’s carolers.

“A lot of them we’ve sung to when they were patients,” Ruffin said of the sing-along that began in 1990. “They are wise enough to know this is a tough journey that the others are going through.”

Anna Price knows something about that journey after undergoing treatments for a brain tumor. The former patient was among the carolers Thursday and said memories of her own recovery have motivated her to continue reaching out to others.

“You can meet with other kids who are going through similar experiences and talk about the good and the bad times that you’ve had,” she said. “I’ve been given so much. I just want to give back.”

Richland Northeast High School student Jonathan Acree was singing Thursday in honor of his younger brother, Josh, who has been in remission five years and joined the others Thursday.

“Basically I think it just helps them feel better,” Jonathan said. “It helps them know that someone cares about them.”

The caroling was one of several events put on throughout the year by Lasting Impressions, which has operated since 1985 as an arm of Camp Kemo, a summer camp for young cancer patients and their siblings. Other activities featured trips to hockey games, picnics and other recreational outings.

Angelica Goodson, a part of Lasting Impressions for nearly five years, knows the value of the holiday visit.

“To have people come in and sing to you is a change,” she said. “It makes people feel important.”

It’s a privilege not taken lightly, Ruffin said. One of the teenagers, he said, learned recently that her cancer may have returned but made sure her next doctor’s appointment didn’t conflict with Thursday’s visit.

“They understand,” he said.

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