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Doernbecher patients get a graduation day of their own

Decades-long collaboration between OHSU and Multnomah ESD delivers K-12 education to patients in the hospital
2018 OHSU Doernbecher graduation
Susan Anderson, with her student MacKenzie McBride Garner at the annual graduation ceremony on the hematology/oncology unit at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, June 7, 2018. The school serves over 100 students per year who are receiving care for cancer and blood disorders and is operated through a partnership between OHSU and the Multnomah Education Service District. (OHSU/Kristyna Wentz-Graff)

The graduates wore yellow hospital gowns. Their mortarboards were adorned with bunny ears, cat stickers and spider drawings. One classmate walked in stocking feet, another zipped along in a wheelchair, and most toted IV poles—moving to the beat of “Pomp and Circumstance.”

Six students receiving care for cancer or blood disorders participated in the annual graduation ceremony at OHSU Doernbecher Children's Hospital on Thursday. The in-hospital school serves over 100 student-patients per year.

The classroom is one of two at OHSU Doernbecher, operating through a partnership between the hospital and the Multnomah Education Service District. The program serves K-12 students with both classroom or bedside instruction.

Teacher Anna Balmaseda has worked as an OHSU Doernbecher hospital school teacher since 2000. “This is the one day of the year we take to recognize all our students—to recognize their perseverance and tenacity that got them through an unusual school year,” Balmaseda said. “This is the day that we all come together to say ‘good job and we support you.’”

2018 OHSU Doernbecher graduation
Cash Bandy tries on his graduation mortarboard before the annual graduation ceremony on the hematology/oncology unit at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, June 7, 2018. (OHSU/Kristyna Wentz-Graff)

Thursday’s ceremony was brief. Parents lined the outside edges of the room, clapping and taking photos. One by one, teachers called each student and commented on their special skills and attributes.

Sophie Ranit’s teacher commented on how hard she’s worked on her writing and math skills. The kindergarten student from Damascus, Oregon was in the hospital for her most recent round of chemotherapy.

“We are here every three weeks or so,” said her mother, Amanda Ranit. “She’s here more for this class than she is in her actual classroom.”

Amanda Ranit says she is glad Sophie had the opportunity to continue learning through the hospital school program. Sophie is learning comparable material to her classmates at home, so when they get together, she feels connected. But she has had to miss out on many of the celebrations at her home school.

And that is one of reasons the graduation event is important, Balmaseda said.

“They miss a lot. They shouldn’t have to miss everything.”

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