Despite pandemic, UCSF staff holds annual prom for pediatric patients

Briana Nathaniel is all glammed up and ready to party the night away! Well, at least for three hours. The teen is a patient at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital in Oakland. 

"I was supposed to have surgery June first because there’s a cyst in my throat that’s blocking my airway passage," Nathaniel said. 

Briana was born with sickle cell anemia and often suffers from pain. A recent episode forced her surgery to be moved, allowing her to attend the hospital's annual prom.  "For children that are in the hospital it can be a challenge to go to prom and to get to do a lot of the normal things you get to do in your high school years," said the children's hospital child life special events coordinator, Elyse Cann.

For more than ten years, the hospital has put on a prom for it's pediatric patient. Last year, the hospital had to cancel because of the pandemic. 

But, because Briana is a long term patient, and has been a patient since she was a child, this wasn't the first time she donned a party dress. 

But this year was a little different. 

"Welcome to virtual prom!" the staff said during a zoom conference call.

With the risk of catching COVID-19 higher for these young patients, the more than 30 attendees were able to enjoy prom festivities from the comfort of their hospital bed. 

But believe me, that didn't stop the party! 

"Even though we couldn’t do this in person it’s still good to do it virtually because you still have fun ," said Nathaniel. 

The staff pulled out all the stops to make sure the night was a special one!

All of the teens started prom week by getting the star treatment. One of the rooms in the hospital was turned into a prom store with dozens of free dresses, tux, makeup, shoes, and accessories to chose from. The teens were also offered a makeup tutorial from a popular TikTok makeup artist. 

"They completely forget that this is a room that’s been made up in the hospital," said Cann. 

"My inner stylist was like, kind of fangirling," Nathaniel said. 

A worthy start to what was sure to be a magical night.

And when the big night arrived, the teens donned their best and enjoyed the magic of what proved to be a special night, one that they will likely never forget.

"I definitely am forever grateful for that," Nathaniel said.