Nine-year-old cancer survivor donates a pile of PJs to MCH
Lillian Pottage wants young cancer patients like herself to feel comfortable during their hospital stay.
That’s why the Barrie-area girl created a pyjama drive for five hospitals across the province who treat kids with cancer. With her mom, Lillian recently delivered close to 300 sets of pyjamas to Hamilton Health Sciences’ McMaster Children’s Hospital (MCH). The nine-year-old has spent close to half her life battling acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a type of blood cancer.
Other hospitals to receive donations include SickKids in Toronto, the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) in Ottawa, London Health Sciences Centre and Kingston General Hospital.
The pyjamas are meant for children and teens in hospital, although parents staying overnight can also receive a pair since donations include adult sizes for teens.
“My favourite thing to wear all day, every day, is pyjamas.” — Lillian Pottage, age nine.
“We know what it’s like to show up at hospital without enough clothing for a longer stay,” says Lillian’s mother, Hope Pottage. “The first time Lillian was diagnosed we had nothing but the clothes on our backs, and Lillian was put in scrubs that were four sizes too big.”
Inspired to give
Lillian launched the drive last spring at her small rural school in Oro-Medonte near Barrie. Within a week, the school’s approximately 400 students had donated 467 brand new pyjama sets. Family, friends and community members have continued to donate since then, giving about 1,360 pairs of pyjamas so far.
Lillian’s goal is to give away 1,536 pyjamas province-wide – one for each of the 1,536 days she spent in treatment. “It amounts to four years and three months of Lillian’s young life,” says Hope.
“Wearing pyjamas helps to normalize the hospital environment for our young patients.” — Jenny Cooke, child life specialist.
Lillian wanted to reach her goal in September as a way to mark Childhood Cancer Awareness Month but she was shy by about 200. Now she hopes to reach her goal by the end of the year.
The Pottage family has been donating pyjamas as they arrive. In October, Lillian and Hope visited MCH with 288 sets. The gift was so generous that there were more than enough for cancer patients, says MCH child life specialist Jenny Cooke, who accepted the donation on behalf of the hospital.
Supporting all patients in need
Lillian and her mother suggested that the pyjamas go to MCH cancer patients as well as any patient in need, such as kids coming to the emergency department because of an accident or serious illness. Pyjamas are stored at MCH’s Clothing Closet, based at emergency. The Clothing Closet program provides clean clothing to patients and their family members who may have arrived in damaged or dirty clothes, or don’t have access to clean clothing during their hospital stay.
Lillian’s cancer journey
Lillian was treated at Sick Kids in Toronto after being diagnosed at age two. Her cancer eventually went into remission, but returned two years ago. She finished more treatment last June and is in remission once again.
“When I was little, I didn’t really know what was going on,” says Lillian, of being admitted to hospital as a toddler.
“But two years ago when I was seven, being admitted to the hospital really scared me. I was lucky that my mom packed some pyjamas for me. They’re softer and warmer than hospital blankets, and being able to wear stuff from home made those days a little less scary.”
Why donate pyjamas?
Lillian was motivated to start this drive because she wanted to make sure that other kids admitted to hospital during such a sad and scary time had something to make them feel more comfortable.
“My favourite thing to wear all day, every day, is pyjamas,” says Lillian. “If I could wear them to school every day I would.”
These donations are definitely making a difference, says Cooke. “Wearing pyjamas helps to normalize the hospital environment for our young patients. A hospital gown isn’t what kids are used to wearing at home.”