Snowpile: Santa Sets Up a Satellite Workshop at the UM Children’s Hospital

By Shannon Joslin, MS, CCLS

Child Life Manager
University of Maryland Children’s Hospital

Being in the hospital at any time is a challenge, but especially so for young patients during the holidays.  Children miss their family, friends and their traditional holiday activities.

Here at the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital (UMCH), it’s a little easier thanks to some generous people in the community — grateful families of current and former patients, companies, local businesses and other individuals who open their hearts and checkbooks to allow the Child Life Program to host the second annual Snowpile event for children and families in the hospital over the holidays.

The Child Life team sets up a toy workshop from Dec. 21 to Dec. 23 each year and invites parents of children who are in the hospital over the holiday to come shopping (for free) for their child.

In addition to the toys, every parent is able to “stuff a stocking” full of goodies for their child in the hospital as well as stockings for any siblings at home so they don’t feel left out while their brother or sister is hospitalized.

We have volunteer gift wrappers to help with wrapping the gifts and we have coffee, cookies and snacks for parents so they can take a moment for themselves in the midst of their child’s hospitalization.  Last year, we had Girl Scout cookies donated through a troop whose leader works at UMMC. This year, we got donated food and drinks from the Au Bon Pain restaurant in the hospital lobby and The Penn Restaurant nearby onPratt Street.

Parents either take their gifts with them if there’s a chance their child is being discharged before the 25th, or they leave them with our Child Life team for delivery on the 25th.  Parents who have participated have commented on how this was such a help, for two reasons — finances are usually tight and their time to go shopping is limited because they want to stay at the hospital with their child.

If you would like more information about the Child Life Program at UMCH or how to help support children and families in the hospital, please visit our Child Life Web site.

Blue Holiday Service Acknowledges Darkness While Seeking Growth and Hope

By Susan Roy, DMin, BCC
Pastoral Care Director

As hospital chaplains working with patients, families and our fellow staff members, we know that the stream of cheerful holiday messages and images might only make it harder for individuals experiencing grief or loss. Each year, we offer a series of services for people who seek a more reflective way of coping with the holidays.

I am just finishing the program for our Blue Holiday services later today (12:45 p.m.; 5 p.m.; and 6:15 p.m. to 8:15 p.m.) and hope that it will be meaningful for anyone who is feeling a bit blue this holiday season. Around the country, similar services might also be called a Longest Night service because it occurs on the winter solstice — Dec. 22, the day of the year that has the fewest hours of sunlight. Regardless of the name used, these programs acknowledge the darkness that may also be part of our holiday season.

Arranged in four parts, the service is reflective – not depressing – and moves from darkness to light while keeping a balance between the two. The four parts are loneliness, death, growth and hope. Each of the four parts includes lighting a candle, a reading, and a musical selection. During each of the four parts of the service, participants will be invited to come forward to place flowers in a wreath to represent those whom they remember.

For example: during the first music segment – about loneliness — I might place a flower for my frustration at work; during the second, I might place four flowers to remember three people who have died and a friend who is estranged from me; during the third, I might place a flower for the way I am growing in my faith; during the fourth, I might place two flowers, one for world peace and another for hope.

The service acknowledges the darkest night of the year and symbolically allows us to acknowledge the darker parts of the human condition and our own lives. In the midst of darkness, we still experience moments of light and hints of hope.

In addition to the spiritual help needed, here are some practical tips from two physicians at UMMC.

Dark Chocolate: It’s Sweet for Your Health

By Christine Dobmeier
UMMC Nutritionist

Editor’s Note: Christine Dobmeier wrote this post on February 9, 2011 for Exercists, the Baltimore Sun’s health and fitness blog. This post, which has been edited, is reprinted with the permission of the Baltimore Sun.

With Valentine’s Day quickly approaching, chocolate candy is everywhere we look, in many shapes and forms, including, of course, hearts! While many of us think of chocolate as an unhealthy indulgence, research is showing that dark chocolate actually has many benefits. Chocolate’s healthy kick stems from its rich flavonol content. The health bonuses associated with dark chocolate and cocoa include enhanced blood flow, healthy cholesterol levels and in some studies, reduced blood pressure.

What is a flavonol? Though it sounds like some kind of wacky flavor, it is actually a type of flavonoid. A flavonoid is something that helps protect plants by repairing damage from environmental toxins. Flavonoids occur naturally in plant-based foods and offer certain health benefits when people consume them. There are more than 4,000 various flavonoid compounds, and flavonol is the specific one found in chocolate and cocoa.

When we think of antioxidants and flavonoids, foods that often come to mind include green tea, red wine and berries. The good news on cocoa and chocolate? Just two tablespoons of natural cocoa has more antioxidant properties than four cups of green tea, one cup of blueberries or six ounces of red wine. One cup of cranberries has 419 milligrams of flavonols, and only 1.4 ounces of dark chocolate has 517 milligrams. There isn’t an official recommended daily allowance for flavonols, but research indicates there are health benefits with intakes from approximately 150-200 milligrams a day.

Why dark chocolate over milk or white chocolate? Typically dark chocolate is less refined, which allows its flavonol content to be higher. Most commercial chocolate is more processed, which decreases this healthy benefit. The good news is many chocolate manufacturers are looking for ways to keep the flavonol content higher to promote the healthy side of chocolate. When choosing chocolate for your sweetheart, look for a dark chocolate, and still remember that portion size is important. The serving recommendation to get the heart healthy benefit of dark chocolate isn’t yet established, but it’s thought that an ounce of dark chocolate 2-3 times a week is a good goal.

While dark chocolate is more heart-healthy, try to limit chocolate in forms such as cake, where it may have much additional saturated and trans fats, as well as items with a lot of extra caramel or marshmallow fillings. Instead, look for basic, rich dark chocolate or ways to mix dark chocolate with a variety of other anti-oxidant rich foods. Consider dipping cranberries or blueberries in dark chocolate for a healthy but delicious treat. Cocoa dusted almonds also make an excellent snack.

Enjoy a healthy dose of dark chocolate for Valentine’s Day, as well as to celebrate American Heart Month in February.

Other Posts By Christine Dobmeier:

Crafters Spread Some Holiday Warmth to Cancer Patients

The UMMC Knit & Crochet Circle, a group of people who knit and crochet from throughout the Medical Center, have been busy this fall making lap blankets for cancer patients in the Marlene & Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center. The goal for the holiday project was to make 100 blankets to distribute to patients who are undergoing cancer treatment or who have to be in the hospital during the holidays.

Trisha Kendall, BSN, RN, OCN, who has been named a finalist in the Daily Record’s 2011 Health Care Heroes Awards Program for her work as the group’s founder, reports that the group exceeded its goal, with the help of friends both within and outside the Medical Center. “Staff from across the Medical Center joined forces with community members from the Waxter Center, local churches, and cancer survivors to give to others this season. It’s very touching to see how many people came through to help,” she says. At last count, 156 handmade lap blankets were waiting to be presented to patients as holiday gifts. Trisha personalizes each blanket with a tag that wishes each survivor strength, peace, and recovery.

Volunteers distributed the blankets during the week of December 20, both to outpatients in the Stoler Pavilion and to inpatients throughout the Medical Center living with cancer.

The UMMC Knitting Circle meets on the first Wednesday of the month from noon to 2 p.m. at the University of Maryland Medical Center. The public is welcome to attend. For more information, contact Trisha Kendall at 410-328-5420 or

UMMC Employee’s Girl Scout Troop Reaches Out to Help Those Less Fortunate on Thanksgiving

By Tanya Berry
Training Coordinator, Learning and Organizational Development

This school year I became a Girl Scout (GS) Troop Leader in Harford County, MD to five amazing 11-year-old girls. When we first met, I asked them what it was they wanted to focus on this year. Without batting an eye, they all responded that they wanted to help other people — less fortunate people.

Our first chance to work on achieving this goal came during our first cookie sale drive. The girls chose to collect donated boxes of cookies for the University of Maryland Hospital for Children, because they wanted the children who were hospitalized there to know that there were people thinking about them and their families and wishing for their speedy recovery. They collected 50 boxes of cookies, which they called “Gifts of Caring,” and were delighted when they received a photograph and note from the kids who were benefiting from their yummy gift of cookies.

With the Thanksgiving holiday approaching, the girls again wanted to reach out to those people less fortunate than themselves. I asked them how they thought they could achieve this, and they replied that they wanted to prove that the power of five was mighty! Five girls feeding 50 people!

Although the girls’ wanted to give back to the community, they knew they needed help. Each girl’s goal was to feed 10 homeless citizens here in Baltimore. They reached out to businesses in the neighborhood to ask for donations in order to realize this goal. Together, they were able to have Weis Supermarkets from Bel Air, MD donate 10 pounds of turkey and ham, six loaves of bread and seven cans of cranberry sauce. Kirbies Cafe in Baltimore was also kind enough to donate condiments, serving cups and 20 pounds of potato salad. The girls bought napkins, forks and sandwich bags with their own money. In the end, the troop was able make enough brown bag lunches to feed 80 people. They had a fantastic time making the lunches on Thanksgiving Eve.

We woke up early Thanksgiving morning to find homeless men and women throughout the area to feed. The girls searched under underpasses, street corners and park benches. They climbed the steps of Baltimore’s City Hall and fed the homeless at the Helping Up Mission on Baltimore Street. We were greeted with smiles and “Thank You’s” from all of the people we served that day, and the girls walked away with an amazing feeling and understanding of true community service.

The girls have now pledged to double the amount of food we serve next year and have already started planning their next service project. These kids genuinely want to give back and make a difference in the world they live in. I have never been more proud of any group of young girls as I am of my Troop 2825. I love them, and I know that they are each going do great things!

Greenebaum Cancer Center Patients and Staff Give Thanks

By Kathy Schuetz
UMGCC Web Site Editor

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we posted the following message of “Thanks” to all Greenebaum Cancer Center staff on the UMGCC Facebook page:

We’re so thankful this Thanksgiving for all of the wonderful, dedicated, compassionate staff at the Greenebaum Cancer Center…

Here are some of the comments posted by our patients, family members and staff in response.

We are so thankful that this day has come. We never would have gotten here without the extraordinary women and men of the University of Maryland Department of Radiation Oncology and the Greenebaum Cancer Center, who make you realize so quickly that they are not only among the finest professionals to be found anywhere, but are also among the most welcoming and caring, and that makes all the difference in the world! Wishing you all a healthy and happy Thanksgiving!

Thankful to Dr. Sausville and the Greenebaum staff for all the care, treatment and compassion you’ve given to my spouse and I. I am truly grateful to have discovered such a place of healing! Again, thank you.

It was the week of Thanksgiving in 2007 that my Dave was diagnosed with AML and admitted to 9W to begin treatment. It was very quick for the staff to take care of us. We are forever thankful for the treatment that my Dave received up there. We will enjoy this Thanksgiving with our granddaughter and hope for many, many more. I am thankful to everyone at University of MD for my treatments in 2009 — Cancer Center, radiation oncology and all my friends who supported me.

I am very, very thankful to all at Greenebaum. You are caring, compassionate, wonderful people. Thank you so much for all the extraordinary work that you do for all of us patients and our care givers.

I know I don’t speak for all, but as a member of the staff I have to say that the patients touch me and I learn from them everyday. Personally, it is an absolute joy to do anything I can to help the patients. Doing a job that I think really matters and makes a difference in someone’s life is a blessing to me. A wonderful Thanksgiving to each and every one of you.

Join the conversation. Visit the UMGCC Facebook page and share your story.

Thanksgiving Food Safety Tips

By Mindy Athas, RD, CSO, LDN
UMMC Nutritionist

Editor’s Note: Mindy Athas wrote this post on November 9, 2010 for Exercists, the Baltimore Sun’s health and fitness blog. This post, which has been edited, is reprinted with the permission of the Baltimore Sun.

Thanksgiving can be a both a stressful and joyful time. Don’t let food-borne illness make things worse. Food-borne illness can happen to anyone. It can cause vomiting, diarrhea, cramping or worse. Many foods can harbor dangerous bacteria, which can grow quickly at room temperature. Here’s how to avoid spending Black Friday in the bathroom or emergency room.

Plan: Order your turkey in advance from a local farm or farmers’ market. Buy frozen turkey a few days ahead to allow thaw-time in the refrigerator, or get it earlier and keep it frozen. Raw foods must be kept at the correct temperatures to inhibit bacterial growth. That means 0 degrees for the freezer and less than 40 degrees for the refrigerator. Thaw turkey on a tray in the fridge, so juices don’t leak onto other foods. For fresh turkey that arrives more than four days before the holiday, consider brining, smoking or freezing it. Four days is the max for raw turkey in the refrigerator, so keep that in mind when buying.

Chill Out: Keep that turkey cold. The danger zone for maximum bacterial growth is between 40 and 140 degrees, so aim to keep all foods out of this zone. Frozen turkey thawing should occur either inside the refrigerator, in a cold-water sink bath or in the microwave. Allow time for this process; the larger the bird, the longer the thaw. Fridge thawing can take up to five days, and cold-water sink bathing can take up to 12 hours. And if you plan to nuke that bird, make sure it fits in your microwave. For frozen pre-stuffed turkey, keep it in the freezer and don’t thaw before roasting.

Divide and Conquer: Bacteria multiply, especially in warm, moist environments. So never leave that raw turkey out on your countertop. Cooking to proper temperatures will prevent bacterial growth. Allow time for your turkey to roast to perfection, usually between three and six hours. The ideal temperature is 165 degrees. Use a food thermometer instead of relying on the pop-up button that comes plugged into your bird. Go to for more tips.

Storage Savvy: In the refrigerator, toss your fresh fruits and vegetables in the storage bins or inside a bowl. Wait to wash the fresh produce until right before using or serving; wet stuff can grow mold — even in the refrigerator. See for more details.

Prep Power: When preparing the big meal, keep the raw and ready-to-eat foods separate. Use different cutting boards, plates, utensils and knives. Never reuse something that touched a raw item, and wash everything in hot, soapy water or in the dishwasher. Wipe up any spills from raw foods and disinfect all surfaces. Preventing cross-contamination is key to avoiding food-borne illness. And wash your hands before, during and after preparing food.

Stuffing: So, you like your turkey all dressed up. You can’t waste precious oven space with a separate, but safer, stuffing casserole dish. If you must pre-stuff your turkey before roasting, you’ll need to thermometer-test the dressing, too. Its cooked temperature goal is also 165 degrees. Fill the turkey cavern just before cooking to limit the time the stuffing spends at room temperature. See for more information.

Game Time: When carving turkey, serve the slices on an unused platter. Keep this platter, along with other hot dishes, on a hot plate or within chafing dishes. Aim to keep the temperature above 140 degrees. Hot foods that drop below this safe level must be eaten or removed from the buffet table within two hours.

Think Like A Restaurant: Serve smaller portions at the table and keep the bulk of the food hot in the oven or on the stove.

Time for Leftovers: Depending on the amount of food you didn’t send home with guests, decide what will be eaten in the next four days. Anything that won’t make that time frame needs to be frozen. Wrap it well, label and date it. What you are keeping for the week should be placed in shallow containers to help it cool down quickly. For more turkey concerns, call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline (1-888-674-6854) or 1-800-BUTTERBALL.

Other Posts by Mindy Athas:

Calling All Knitters and Crocheters: Help Us Reach Our Goal of 100 Lap Blankets for Cancer Patients This Holiday Season

By Trisha Kendall, BSN, BS, RN, OCN
UMMC Knit & Crochet Circle Group

Editor’s Note: Trisha Kendall, R.N., B.S.N., O.C.N., has been named a finalist in the Daily Record’s 2011 Health Care Heroes Awards Program for her work with the UMMC Knitting Circle.

The UMMC Knit & Crochet Circle Group, along with many community volunteers, is over halfway toward reaching our goal for the holiday season. We hope to have 100 lap blankets to provide to cancer patients at the University of Maryland Medical Center this year!

If you are looking for a great way to give back this year, but feeling pressured by the economy, consider knitting or crocheting a blanket. You can even gather other volunteers in your community or donate yarn/needles today!

For more information, please contact me at

UMMC Hosts First-Ever Sukkot Celebration on Wednesday, September 29

By Rabbi Ruth Smith
Staff Chaplain
Department of Pastoral Care Services

Building the Sukkah Booth
Building the Sukkah Booth at UMMC.

Patients and visitors at the University of Maryland Medical Center will notice that there is a new booth perched on the porch of Donna’s Café on the first floor of the South Hospital. Some of you may be wondering what this booth is and why it’s in the hospital. This special booth is known as a Sukkah, and it’s used by Jewish staff, students and patients to celebrate Sukkot — a Jewish harvest festival that lasts for eight days.

Perhaps the most distinguishing characteristic of a Sukkah booth is that it doesn’t have a real roof. This is to allow those who are inside of the booth to see the stars through whatever is overhead. The Sukkah that we are using at the Medical Center is currently on loan from Chabad of Baltimore. This group has been very helpful in providing a wide range of religious services for Jewish staff, students and patients staying at the Medical Center. In the past, Chabad of Baltimore has also aided the Department of Pastoral Care Services at UMMC by providing Shofar blowers during Rosh Hashanah and Megilla readers for Purim.

The Sukkah is available for use by staff, UMB students, patients and their families. It will be available during the day from 7:00 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. Please help the Department of Pastoral Care Services spread the word that it is here and alert others about the Medical Center’s first-ever Sukkot celebration. The celebration is a “bring your own lunch” affair, with Pastoral Care Services providing a variety of kosher desserts. The celebration will take place on Wednesday, September 29, from 12:00 p.m. until 2:00 p.m., and we hope that anyone who has some time — regardless of religion or ethnicity — will join us in the Sukkah. To arrive at the Sukkah, use the Medical Center’s Greene Street entrance. Go up the steps and through the gate on Donna’s porch.

The Department of Pastoral Care Services is also raising money to buy our own Sukkah for the Medical Center. If you or someone you know would like to make a donation towards purchasing this Sukkah, please make a check out to the UMMS Foundation, and in the “memo” line write “Sukkah.” You can mail your check to Beth Ryan at the UMMS Foundation, located at 110 S. Paca Street, 9th floor, Baltimore, MD 21201.

We hope to see you at our Sukkot celebration on Wednesday, September 29.

For More Information:

For more information about Sukkot, please visit the Pastoral Care Services Web site at, and click on the “Services for Jewish Patients” link.

Sounds of the Season

By Chris Lindsley
Blog Editor

For the last 25 years, the University of Maryland Medical Center Chamber Players have been performing holiday music for patients, staff and visitors. The Chamber Players consist of doctors, other hospital and University of Maryland School of Medicine employees and medical students and others.

The Chamber Players have two more concerts, on December 18 and 21, from noon to 1 in the lobby of UMMC’s Gudelsky Building.

Take  much-needed break from your holiday preparations by getting in the spirit of the season. Need more motivation? UMMC cardiologist Michael Miller has shown that joyful music may be good for your heart, so think of it as taking a health break.