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Stony Brook Children’s Hospital

The exterior of Stony Brook Children's Hospital. Photo from Stony Brook Medicine

COVID-19, which was considered especially threatening to the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions, may also have triggered an inflammatory illness that is sickening children in several places throughout the world, including in Suffolk County.

An inflammatory illness in children with symptoms that mimic Kawasaki disease has sickened seven in Suffolk County and officials are expecting more cases of the rare condition here and throughout the country.

Stony Brook Pediatric Hospital has admitted two cases of the multi-inflammatory pediatric condition, for residents who are 10 and 19 years old.

With other hospitals showing rare but similar unusual pediatric cases, including in the United Kingdom and New York City, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is preparing to release an alert about the inflammatory condition, a CDC spokesman told CNN.

Symptoms of the new illness include an extended fever, a rash, red eyes, red lips, a strawberry tongue, lower blood pressure and abdominal symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea.

Stony Brook, Pediatric Hospital has been “treating patients like we would treat and approach Kawasaki Disease,” said Christy Beneri, the Fellowship Program Director in Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. The hospital has provided intravenous immunoglobulin, a high dose of aspirin and steroids to decrease inflammation and other medications to help suppress the inflammatory syndrome.

This rare inflammatory process in children has developed weeks after a likely mild or asymptomatic case of COVID-19 in mostly healthy younger patients.

Patients can develop symptoms from “days to weeks” after an infection with the virus that has caused the pandemic, Beneri said. The majority of people with this inflammatory reaction are either testing positive for COVID-19 when they come to the hospital or have a positive antibody test, which indicates their immune systems mounted a defense against the virus, Beneri added.

It is unclear to doctors what is causing the progression from a manageable response to the virus to an inflammation that may require a trip to the hospital and to the Intensive Care Unit.

“We are trying to understand how the coronavirus is causing vasculitis,” Beneri said. “It has something to do with how the virus is affecting blood vessels and organs.”

To be sure, Beneri reassured children and their parents that most of the children who are infected with Covid-19 will not develop these inflammatory symptoms later.

“The majority will do well,” Beneri said.

Nonetheless, Beneri anticipated that more pediatric residents in Suffolk County would likely show signs of this inflammatory response.

“If their child is having fever for a number of days, significant vomiting or diarrhea, belly pain, red eyes or a rash, it is important that they speak with their doctor,” Beneri said.

One of the reasons Suffolk County is seeing some cases of this Kawasaki-like response in children now, weeks after the pandemic infected thousands in the area, likely relates to the timing of the peak infections, which occurred in the middle of April.

Based on conversations Beneri has had with other pediatricians who are treating patients with similar symptoms, she said the patients tend to be “healthy kids” who have often had a contact with someone in their house who was recently diagnosed with COVID-19.

The child may have brought the virus into the home and passed it along to a parent, who became sick. The child, however, later develops these multiple-symptom inflammatory issues.

While some children have died from this condition, Beneri said the majority of them are recovering.

The duration of hospital stays has varied, with some patients requiring 10 days in the hospital, while others have recovered within a few days. Beneri said Stony Brook has already sent one patient home.

Beneri added Nassau County has also had several teenage patients come in with the same symptoms. She expects more Suffolk pediatric patients with similar symptoms to come to county hospitals.

Parents should be on the lookout, primarily, for persistent fevers over the course of several days with significant abdominal pain, Beneri said. “If they start developing other symptoms, such as red eyes and a rash and they are not getting better” then parents should contact their doctor or a hospital, Beneri advised.

By McKenzi Murphy

Sitting cross-legged on the floor of a vibrantly lit playroom, a little boy gleefully fiddled with a box of Mr. Potato Head toys. Flanking him on both sides, delighted at his antics, members from the Los Angeles-based contemporary dance company BODYTRAFFIC, Haley Heckethorn and Tiare Keeno, joined the little boy in his creations. 

On the morning of their performance at Staller Center for the Arts on Feb. 8, Heckethorn and Keeno, along with the rest of the company, headed over to the new Stony Brook Children’s Hospital to spend time with a few of its patients. It was there, within newly painted and decorated walls lined with oceanic-themed paintings and paper mache art, that they met with and performed for about a dozen of the 40 patients.

“It’s always very rewarding to be able to give back to the community and spread the joy of dance with everyone, but especially with those who are really in need of a pick-me-up,” Jamal White, a dancer and BODYTRAFFIC’s social media manager, said. The last little girl he visited became his favorite because of her delightful laughter. While two of his colleagues went through some of their steps, she sat giggling and clapping along. “It was the cherry on top,” he said.

While the younger children seemed more interested in playing with the dancers and showing off their toys, some of the older children had an opportunity to ask the dancers questions about their work and the company, familiar territory for many of the performers. Throughout their tours, BODYTRAFFIC often goes on outreach missions. Usually, they visit schools and teach students a few of their modern moves, or go into retirement homes and work with elderly residents. However, for some of them, going into a children’s hospital proved to be a new experience. 

“It’s one of my favorite experiences so far,” Heckethorn, who has been with the company for two and a half seasons, said. “It was really lovely and especially doing that on a show day, it really inspires and brings a lot of energy. We travel so often and it is really taxing, so [events] like going to a children’s hospital reminds us of why we dance and why we love it so much.”

Splitting off into smaller groups, the dancers were able to visit a few patients in their rooms where they showed off a modified version of a dance they would later perform in front of hundreds at the sold-out show at the Staller Center. A few children even joined them in learning some steps after some encouragement.

“We visited this one five-year-old,” Rachel Secrest, a dancer new to BODYTRAFFIC’s season, said. “His name was Chris and he recently had surgery and was connected to a machine which was helping him. At first, we came in and he just laughed at us as we danced. We showed him some moves, and he was giggling and nervous, but his mom was with him and got him up and out of the bed. He still has it inside of him to want to dance.”

An emotional but so very rewarding experience, getting to spend time with the children became a bright spot in an otherwise high-stress day. 

“It’s tough seeing these kids who are quite sick and hooked up to different machines,” Secrest continued. “But as much as I could I was trying to really look at their faces and do what I could to make them forget their troubles for a minute. I was seeing a kid I wanted to connect with and share a dance with.”

General operating support was made possible by the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project with funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. The Outreach program was coordinated by the Staller Center for the Arts, Stony Brook Children’s Hospital and BODYTRAFFIC. 

Paul Newland, Outreach director at the Staller Center for the Arts said, “It was a wonderful collaboration, and we look forward to working with the Children’s Hospital again soon.”

Photos courtesy of Staller Center for the Arts

 

Local officials and health professional are urging residents to get this year's flu shot. Stock photo

State, county and area hospitals are bracing for this year’s flu season following reports of a sharp increase in recent weeks in the number of flu cases in New York state.

About 11,000 confirmed cases of influenza were reported by the New York State Department of Health for the week ending Jan. 11. That’s an increase of 10 percent over the previous week, according to the New York State Flu Tracker. There were 641 new cases in Suffolk County. The statewide total this season stands at almost 44,000. 

Similarly, “widespread”’ flu activity was reported by health departments in 46 states as of the last week of December, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.

Stony Brook Children’s Hospital’s Dr. Sharon Nachman, division chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases and professor of Pediatrics, said currently the hospital is in the midst of handling an influx of influenza cases.

“We are dealing with the children’s hospital being quite full,” she said. “We have a number of infants with the flu, and we are concerned about it.” 

“Community protection is everyone’s job.”

– Sharon Nachman

The hospital hopes to see an improvement in the next couple of weeks.

Nachman points to a number of reasons why we have been seeing more flu cases in the state: People unwilling to get vaccinated; individuals believing that they are safe from getting sick if they haven’t in the past; a belief that cold and flu medications are better than the shot, among other things.

“I ask patients, ‘Is there a legitimate reason why you don’t want to be vaccinated?’” Nachman said. “You have to think of who is also living in your household, like young people and the elderly. Community protection is everyone’s job.”

The division chief said if everyone got their flu vaccine there would be less people to treat.

“You are 100 percent at risk without the vaccine,” Nachman said. “The vaccine will not prevent someone from getting the flu, but it can lessen the severity of it and shorten its duration.”

She said despite some misconceptions, you can’t catch the flu from the vaccine as it does not contain a live virus. If you happen to get sick after getting a flu shot, it’s a coincidence as there are a lot of viruses and illnesses circulating during the winter months.

In an effort to curb flu cases in Suffolk County, officials announced recently that the county would be offering free influenza immunization to residents 6 months of age and older who are uninsured or whose health insurance does not cover flu immunization.

“The health and wellness of our residents is of utmost importance,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) in a statement. “The flu has been on the rise, and we want residents to know it is not too late to protect yourself and your loved ones from what can turn into a debilitating disease by getting immunized as soon as possible.”

The county’s health department has been providing flu immunizations at a number of locations including Suffolk County Department of Health Services at Great River in the Town of Islip and at Riverhead Free Library.

Nachman said it is important to constantly wash your hands and if you are sick, stay home to avoid exposing others to the illness.

Flu shots are also available at local pharmacies, pediatrician and health care provider offices, as well at county-affiliated health centers.

People who are having difficulty finding flu shots or community groups serving those who are in need of flu shots are advised to contact the county Department of Health Services Bureau of Communicable Disease Control at 631-854-0333.

 

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Nancy Richard.

Nancy Richard died tragically Monday, Dec. 2, after being struck by a car driven by her husband, Peter, who was backing out of their driveway at their Fort Salonga home.

After walking her grandchild to the bus stop, Richard was returning to her home at 9 Concord Drive, when she was struck by a 2015 Mercedes S550 at 7:30 a.m.

Nancy Richard, 79, was transported to Huntington Hospital where she was pronounced dead. Peter Richard, 83, was not injured.

Suffolk County police state that the vehicle was impounded for a safety check.

The accident occurred just a little more than one year after the family donated more than $3.5 million to establish the expansion of the pediatric emergency care unit of Stony Brook University Hospital. The Stony Brook Children’s Hospital lobby was named in the family’s honor in recognition of that gift. The university has acknowledged the couple’s philanthropic effort has meant better services for the families and children on Long Island.

“Nancy Richard was a remarkable friend of Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, and all of us send our heartfelt condolences to Peter and the entire Richard family,” said Dr. Kenneth Kaushansky, senior VP for Health Sciences and dean of the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University.

The couple’s daughter Susan Habberstad, a St. James resident, had played an important role in identifying Stony Brook Children’s Hospital as a worthwhile project to support. In a profile posted on the university’s website, she recognized her parents’ strong family values and how the donation instilled a strong sense of pride:

“My parents’ priority in their life is their children,” Habberstad stated. “And it’s not just their kids; it’s their grandchildren, it’s everybody’s kids. Everybody’s kids are so important, and they are Nanny and Pop to everybody. They’re Nanny and Pop to hundreds of kids.”

Peter Richard was the longtime executive vice president of the P.C. Richard & Son chain of appliance and electronics stores. The retailer has serviced Long Island for more than 110 years. Peter is the grandson of the store founder Pieter Christian (P.C.) Richard. The business today has 66 showrooms in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, three distribution centers and two service centers.

In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting donations in Nancy Richard’s memory to Stony Brook Children’s Hospital at stonybrook.edu/childrenshospitalgiving.

Funeral services have not yet been announced.

 

20190102.01_New Childrens Signage and Lobby

By Margaret McGovern, M.D., Ph.D.

Dr. Margaret McGovern

Stony Brook Children’s Hospital offers the most advanced pediatric specialty care in the region, which means that the smallest babies, the sickest children and the most complex pediatric traumas all get sent to Stony Brook Children’s. 

Since 2010, when Stony Brook Children’s was first formed, we’ve been committed to the nearly half a million children in Suffolk County whose pediatric health care needs were underserved. Our goal was, and still is, to provide sophisticated pediatric care close to home for the many families who previously had to travel long distances.

Now with the completion and opening of our new building earlier this month, we are able to expand our capabilities to meet the growing health care needs of children and their families across Long Island. 

More than 180 pediatric specialists

As the leading children’s hospital on Long Island with more than 180 pediatric specialists in more than 30 specialties, we offer a full range of medical services to support the physical, emotional and mental development of infants, children and young adults. We also can provide leading-edge care for just about every diagnosis — from a simple fracture to a kidney transplant.

Groundbreaking clinical trials

Stony Brook Children’s also provides cutting-edge research, child-sized technological innovations, clinical trials and breakthrough techniques to benefit pediatric patients as Long Island’s only children’s teaching hospital.

A child-first, family-first philosophy

The new hospital was designed with patients at the center of our thinking and planning, to promote their safety, well-being and healing. It’s the only children’s hospital on Long Island with all single-patient rooms, which allows us to combine the best practices in modern pediatric medicine with a child-first, family-first philosophy. The hospital’s design and amenities are supported by research that shows that a child-friendly environment contributes to better outcomes for children.

Each room of the new hospital includes patient, family and health care provider areas. State-of-the-art hospital beds capture and download patient information directly into the patients’ charts. Every room contains a proprietary security system, interactive televisions, in-room refrigerators, kid-focused menus as well as multicolored wall lights controlled by patients to give them a greater sense of control over their environment during what can be a frightening time for them and their families.

Other child-friendly features include separate child and teen playrooms, common areas, including an outdoor garden, and a classroom with Wi-Fi so students can keep up with their studies.

There’s also a new Ronald McDonald Family Room to offer a welcoming place for family respite, comfort and support.

Uplifting local artwork that soothes and inspires 

We’ve enjoyed the support of Long Island’s artistic community in providing artwork with a Long Island nautical theme, complete with a play lighthouse and wall-sized live feed from the Long Island Aquarium. It’s truly an outstanding art collection for the entire community living in harmony with the building’s architecture and reflecting the healing mission of Stony Brook Children’s.

To learn more, visit www.stonybrookchildrens.org.

Dr. Margaret McGovern is the Knapp Chair in Pediatrics, dean for clinical affairs and Renaissance School of Medicine physician-in-chief at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital.

Elected officials and Stony Brook Medicine faculty and staff at the Stony Brook Children’s Hospital ribbon-cutting ceremony Oct. 17. Photo from Stony Brook Medicine

Stepping into the main lobby of the new Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, which is slated to open for patient care Nov. 17, it’s apparent that young patients will come first. The downstairs lobby is decorated in soothing tones with a fun nautical theme and one wall features a live feed of fish swimming at the Long Island Aquarium.

Children sit by the live feed from the Long Island Aquarium in the downstairs lobby of Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. Photo from Stony Brook Medicine

In anticipation of the Nov. 17 opening, Stony Brook Medicine held a ribbon-cutting at the site with staff and elected officials in attendance Oct. 17. According to Stony Brook Medicine, the 71,500-square-foot, 114-bed hospital will be the only children’s hospital with single-patient rooms on Long Island.

“We’re really trying to get everything into a child-friendly environment, and this is sort of like the icing on the cake to have our building and to get the pediatric inpatients out from the 11th floor of what is predominantly an adult hospital into this proper space that was designed for kids and their families,” said Dr. Margaret McGovern, professor of pediatrics and physician-in-chief at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, during a tour and interview two days before the ribbon-cutting.

With a full-service health care program that includes a Level 1 pediatric trauma center, neonatal intensive care unit and more, McGovern said Stony Brook Medicine treats an array of pediatric conditions.

“In general the acuity is high,” she said. “These are kids who really need to be in the hospital. It’s everything from an infection to a broken bone.”

McGovern said the single-bed rooms will provide infection control, comfort, privacy and security. The children’s hospital will be located on floors 4, 5, 6 and 7 in the new Medical and Research Translation building, also known as MART, which combined with using wristbands with devices, will provide extra security for children.

Each patient’s room will have a pull-out sofa for parents to sleep, refrigerator, safe and workspaces for both families and hospital staff. Each room also has a private bathroom with a shower that is wheelchair accessible.

Children in one of the play areas in Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. Photo from Stony Brook Medicine

Dr. Carolyn Milana, interim Chair in the Department of Pediatrics, said that the single-patient rooms will allow medical staff to easily have private conversations with families, as the current rooms have two patients each and can only be divided with a curtain. She said at times medical teams have to step out of a room to have a conversation with parents. 

“This will allow the whole team to come in and really have a conversation with the family in private, and it’s quieter,” Milana said.

The children will also have a remote to control the lighting over artwork hung on the walls, and medical teams will be able to pull up records and patient care educational materials right up on the room’s television screen.

Maureen Cole, RN, associate director of nursing, Children’s Hospital and Women’s Services, said that the rooms were designed after receiving feedback from families on an advisory council.

“They were very instrumental in some of the additions that we have made, and then the children gave a lot of feedback, too, because we have a youth advisory council who have been touring the building,” she said.

Cole said children even offered advice on how they should be spoken to and who should be in the room when conversations occur about their care.

In addition to the private rooms, McGovern said the hospital was designed for respite with play spaces and rooms and even a teen lounge. The building will also have an adolescent unit on a separate floor from younger children and a classroom with Wi-Fi. 

The Ronald McDonald House, a nonprofit which provides support to improve the health of children, has a family room in the hospital so parents can sit and relax and even do work. A washer, dryer and shower across from the room is also available to families.

The building includes an elevator for patients being transported for procedures that is separate from visitors. The special procedure unit will provide services such as sedated MRIs, pediatric endoscopies and bone marrow procedures for both in- and outpatients.

McGovern said nearly 10 years ago Stony Brook Medicine declared themselves a children’s hospital because they recognized the need to expand children’s health care programs in Suffolk County.

“There are about 450,000 kids in Suffolk County,” she said. “That is absolutely a population that can support a children’s hospital. So we’ve been building the number of pediatric providers who are on our full-time faculty — now there’s almost 180 of them, 30 different pediatric specialties.”

McGovern said there are also more than 250 nurses on staff and Child Life Services employees and social workers.

The exterior of Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. Photo from Stony Brook Medicine

“Everyone likes to work in a place that has been thoughtfully designed to help them do their best work,” McGovern said. “I think that has resonated, also, with our staff and keeping good staff. We’re recruiting great physicians here. Pediatricians like to work at children’s hospitals because it says a lot about the commitment of the organization to children’s health to have a children’s hospital. I think that has helped us be successful recruiting doctors here from the best training programs in the country to come and join us to help us take care of the kids in Suffolk County.”

According to Stony Brook Medicine officials, the cost of the construction was $73 million and was part of Stony Brook Medicine’s $450 million expansion, which includes a 10-story hospital pavilion and new cancer center. To help with the cost state Senators Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) and John Flanagan (R-East Northport) secured $50 million from the state. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and the State University of New York, under the leadership of former Chancellor Nancy Zimpher, helped to secure more funds through a $35 million NYSUNY 2020 Challenge Grant.

More contributions came from donors with $25 million from 3,584 contributors to the Children’s Hospital Building Fund, which was supported with two matching gifts of $10 million from an anonymous donor and $2.5 million from the Knapp Swezey Children’s Challenge. An additional $50 million was from a historic $150 million gift to Stony Brook University from Jim and Marilyn Simons.

Delaney Unger, 13, from Selden was on hand for the Oct. 17 ribbon-cutting. An Osteosarcoma survivor, who received a unique amputation called rotationplasty in the spring of 2017, was a patient at Stony Brook Children’s.

“I must say, I am a little jealous of the new beautiful Stony Brook Children’s Hospital,” Delaney said. “I can attest that not only will the children who stay here get the best possible care, but they will also do so in a fantastic new facility designed with them in mind.”

Before the official opening, the hospital invites the community to see the new building Nov. 2 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Pre-registration is preferred at stonybrookchildrens.org/openhouse.

It may have started in front of their Stony Brook home, but now the Mastrianos’ lemonade stand is a community event raising thousands each year for a good cause.

The 7th annual Three Village Kids Lemonade Stand was back at R.C. Murphy Junior High School for the third year Aug. 5. The event, founded by siblings Maddie and Joseph Mastriano, had the help of dozens of student volunteers from the Three Village Central School District.

More than 500 attended to buy 50-cent cups of lemonade and other treats. There were games to be played, music from School of Rock students and Stony Brook University athletes visiting.

Sales from the lemonade stand benefit Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. The goal of $40,000 was exceeded by the end of the day.

For more information or to make an online donation, visit www.threevillagekidslemonadestand.com.

 

Santa Claus took time off from his vacation to visit pediatric patients at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital July 29.

Decked out in shorts and flip flops topped off with his signature jacket and hat, Santa stopped by the children’s rooms at the hospital delivering gifts with the help of correction officers from the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department.

For the second year in a row, Correction Officer Peter Lambert organized a toy collection to help Santa with his visit. The officer was impacted by the passing of Ryan Zinna, a child who suffered from medulloblastoma, and the toy drive was conducted in Ryan’s honor.

Patients and their siblings were excited to see Santa, and he didn’t forget the parents as those on hand received Starbucks gift cards.

Santa sat down and talked with each of the patients. Avery, 9, from Florida, who became sick while on vacation, said she would give a bigger toy she received from him to another child since she would be traveling on a plane the next day. Macklin, 11, from Wading River, was painting a model toy when Santa entered his room and told him how he wanted to be an engineer when he grows up. And 12-year-old Brady, from Aquebogue, told Santa he would be both the cops and robbers when he plays with his new toy.

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After Rockland County declared a countywide state of emergency last week banning any person under 18 who is unvaccinated for measles from public spaces, Suffolk County issued a recommendation.

In a press release, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) and Suffolk County Health Commissioner Dr. James Tomarken urged county residents to make sure they are immunized against measles. Despite the recent ban in Rockland County due to a reported 157 cases of measles since October 2018, there is no immediate public concern in Suffolk.

“In light of recent reports, residents should make sure to receive their measles shots to protect themselves,” Bellone said in the press release. “While there is no immediate public health concern in Suffolk County, this should serve as a reminder to do what is necessary out of an abundance of caution.”

Stony Brook Children’s Hospital’s Dr. Sharon Nachman, division chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases and professor of pediatrics, said early symptoms of measles, which is a virus, can be mistaken for the common cold with a patient suffering from a runny nose, fever and red, watery eyes. She said even doctors can miss the signs of measles, that is until the typical rash of flat red spots appears.

The best protection against measles is the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine, the doctor said, and two doses of the MMR vaccine is needed. Measles is highly contagious, and a person could infect others even 60 feet away. She said an unvaccinated person can potentially catch the measles even if they were in the same supermarket or airport as an infected person.

“The reason for the isolation is to keep the kids who are at risk from the kids who are incubating the illness, or they don’t know they have measles,” she said, adding there are those who are unable to be vaccinated due to medical reasons.

The doctor said anyone born before 1957 more than likely had measles. After 1957, three different vaccines for measles, mumps and rubella were given, and now all are combined into one immunization called MMR. She said one should find their immunization records to see if they received two rounds of each when it was split, or two doses of the MMR vaccine. Once a person gets the measles or the proper doses of the MMR vaccine, they are immune to measles.

Nachman said it’s important to get the full doses, and if a person isn’t sure if they got two rounds of MMR, an extra dose will not hurt them.

When she talks with parents who are hesitant about the immunizations, Nachman said she tells them not to be fooled by what’s written on the internet, and to make sure any website they visit has a review process by professionals as anyone can write anything on a blog without checking facts.

The doctor also said it’s important to remember diseases such as measles are still in the environment, and just because we don’t have an outbreak right now, it doesn’t mean it’s not possible. She calls immunization “community protection” instead of using the common term “herd immunity,” which describes when the majority of the population is vaccinated, there is less likelihood of an unvaccinated person being infected.

“You have to do the same thing for your entire community that you expect your community to do for you,” she said. “That’s what community protection is all about. You don’t want your kid getting into a car unless the driver is wearing a seatbelt and your kid is wearing a seatbelt. That’s what a community does. It protects everyone in the community.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, cases of measles have been confirmed in 15 states and is still common in many parts of the world. Measles has been brought into the United States by unvaccinated American travelers and foreign visitors, according to the website. Worldwide, an estimated 20 million people get measles. Out of those infected, 146,000, mostly children, die from the illness each year.

Pediatric nurse specialist and Centereach resident Lisa Rendina helps Stony Brook Children’s Hospital take part in “Take a Pop, Share a Smile" campaign

Cancer survivors Aubri Krauss, Erin Ersoy and Delaney Unger enjoy ice pops from the Stony Brook Children's Hospital's new freezer containing a lifetime supply. Photo by Kyle Barr

For the young cancer patients at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, one of the worst side effects from chemotherapy, beyond the pain and the nausea, is mouth sores. The best way to soothe the pain, according to 12-year-old cancer survivor Delaney Unger, is with ice pops.

Husband and wife Frank and Lynn Antonawich, assistant director of nursing at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, and pediatric nurse specialist Lisa Rendina at the unveiling of Frankie’s Freezer. Photo by Kyle Barr

“When I had mouth sores, I had to tell my dad right away, because I knew they would get worse if I didn’t treat them right,” Delaney said. “Sometimes using other stuff would make [the pain] worse, so I would usually eat ice pops.”

Stony Brook Children’s Hospital announced Thursday it would be taking part in the nonprofit American Childhood Cancer Organization’s Take a Pop, Share a Smile campaign that donates a lifetime supply of freezer pops to hospitals for its cancer patients. The hospital will be receiving a total of 2,000 ice pops to start, and the ACCO will keep the freezer consistently stocked every year.

To hold the new bounty of ice pops is a new freezer named Frankie’s Freezer, which was dedicated in memory of Francis “Frankie” Antonawich, a 25-year-old who died in February from Hodgkin lymphoma before he could realize his dream of becoming a pediatric oncology nurse.

“I think he would have been thrilled about this, because he really loved kids,” Antonawich’s mother and assistant director of nursing at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Lynn Antonawich, said. “He not only felt that he could help a child, but also the parents of those children who would feel helpless.”

Frankie’s Freezer was named after 25-year-old Frankie Antonawich, who died from Hodgkin lymphoma in February. Photo from the Antonawichs

His father, Frank Antonawich, told an audience of Girl Scouts and families at a press conference May 3, trying to hold back tears, that the disease never stopped his son.

“Frank was a very active young man — it never stopped him going to work, going to the gym — he even continued to volunteer as a wrestling coach at his alma mater, St. John the Baptist Parish,” the West Islip resident said.

Stony Brook Children’s Hospital pediatric nurse specialist Lisa Rendina, who had worked with the family before and during Frankie Antonawich’s treatment, decided she wanted to get involved and contacted the ACCO, which donated the freezer too.

“As a mother, my heart broke for Lynn, and I wanted to do something to honor Frankie,” she said. “We just wanted to bring Frankie’s story to life.”

Rendina is the leader of Girl Scout Troop 105. Her troop, along with other members from Girl Scouts Service Unit 45 from Centereach, attended the unveiling. The Scouts wrote inspirational phrases all over the freezer like “No one fights alone” and “The one who falls and gets up is so much stronger than the one who never fell.”

The event also honored three cancer survivors from Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, including Delaney, 12-year-old Erin Ersoy and 10-year-old Aubri Krauss, all of whom are Girl Scouts from Centereach. The parents of the three girls agreed that ice pops were one of the simplest ways to deal with the mouth sores, while also aiding in hydration and nutrition.

The freezer donated by nonprofit American Childhood Cancer Organization’s “Take a Pop, Share a Smile” campaign was named “Frankie’s Freezer” in memory of Francis “Frankie” Antonawich. Photo by Kyle Barr

“I remember what happened with my daughter and mouth sores, it was terrible,” said Delaney’s father Berk Unger of his daughter who finished her final treatment last August. “Ice pops were the only thing that helped.”

Lynn Antonawich  said her son was in such severe pain following a stem cell transplant that he couldn’t eat.

“They were thinking of tube feeding him,” she said. “And he was a 24-year-old man. I couldn’t imagine what the pain must be like for a kid.”

Those who work in the children’s hospital said one of the most important things young patients need is to feel like their lived are as normal as possible.

“Anything helps,” Lynn Antonawich said. “From donations of gifts, such as iPads and game systems, they are able to take part in a more normal life like they would at home.”