Editor’s Note: Jeph Novak is a 17-year-old student at Coon Rapids High School with cystic fibrosis (CF), a chronic illness. In April, Jeph was admitted to University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital for treatment. He missed his high school prom, but with help from our care team he was able to enjoy a “Hospital Prom.” Jeph keeps a personal blog that chronicles his life with CF. Jeph agreed to share his “Hospital Prom” story with us. The following is his account.
The hospital isn’t a place anyone wants to be.
The first days are the worst. Not that any of the days are fantastic in the hospital, even a hospital like University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital, which is a great hospital! But hey, you make the most of what you got, right? That’s why I have Sorry competitions with my mom (she cheats, don't let her tell you otherwise); watching movies that no one has heard of, so the nurses can come in and watch with me; or going on walks around the beautiful hospital; or have coloring dates with my girlfriend. It's not all bad, I guess.
There are so many things I have to consider when I go in for hospitalization. What will I miss at school? How much homework will I have to make up? Are there events going on in the family, at school, or with extracurricular activities? This last question definitely had to be considered during my most recent hospitalization at Masonic Children’s Hospital. As some may have heard and/or seen, I was forced to miss prom. Not only that, but I also missed the confirmation of my cousin, for whom I was a sponsor. When my doctor first requested that I return to the hospital a week and a day before prom (Thursday), I initially thought I could rebound back to my normal levels and get out for both prom and the confirmation.
No such luck.
Instead of lasting for a short week, the hospitalization dragged on for two agonizing weeks, causing me to miss my junior prom and my cousin’s confirmation.
I had felt like I let both my girlfriend and my cousin down. I knew (or at least hoped) they understood, but I was excited for both events, and I knew they were, too.
The doctors at Masonic Children’s Hospital understood the situation and tried their hardest to get me out by the following Thursday, the day before prom. The nurses were even better and more supportive: They kept encouraging me and putting their two cents in to the docs as to why I should get out of there for the weekend. This really made the hospitalization a memorable one. Well, that and the prom my care team hosted for me.
I did not get out in the week I had expected, which prevented me from attending prom. So what did my AMAZING social worker and dietician do? They very enthusiastically and willingly threw my own personal prom right there in the hospital, complete with formal wear, a limo, dinner and a photo booth.
The reason I capitalized the word "amazing" was to emphasize just how amazing they were, because my care team actually offered to host and organize this prom. Initially, I had imagined a low-key prom night at the hospital with my girlfriend, including dressing up, a few decorations and a movie.
When I found out I wouldn’t be able to attend prom at my school, they came bursting through the doors asking (rather, begging) to throw me a prom. The huge smiles on their faces, along with the squeals and the hundreds of ideas flowing out of their mouths made it hard to say no. But it also made it hard to say yes. It was very overwhelming, especially compared to the plans I initially had!
But I said yes, and it was probably one of the best things I've ever done.
So after much planning, a lot of phone calls and visits asking about and confirming my color schemes, food choice, time and other logistics, prom night arrived. I donned my suit, complete with red vest and bowtie (classic) to meet my girlfriend and two friends downstairs, where the limo would drop them off. Yes, I said limo. They had planned for a limo service that would bring my girlfriend and another friend to and from the hospital.
After pictures, our care team brought us up to the room, where we were greeted with streamers, a table set for dinner, goodie bags and a mini photo booth. There was also writing on the window of my room—which had sayings such as "Masonic Prom 2015" and "Shake it like a Polaroid picture.”
We were able to order Olive Garden. The restaurant not only made our food but wrote a note which all of the employees signed, sending their best wishes and blessings. I sent them an email, but if anyone who works at the Roseville Olive Garden is reading this, thank you SO much.
The night was definitely one to remember. Taking pictures, having a nice walk outside, just being goofy teenagers and ending the night with a movie made Hospital Prom 2015 a memory I will cherish forever.
No, it wasn't real prom. But everything everyone did for me and the amazing support and encouragement I received really made it a great night, and it meant a lot.