Helping Families Cope with Loss

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When Michelle Metzgar learned that her 8-month-old baby’s cancer was terminal, she knew that her family would need more than medical care. With two other children and agonizing plans to make, the Metzgars needed guidance and support. Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Justin Michael Ingerman Center for Palliative Care provided the social, emotional and spiritual support the family needed to cope with the unimaginable loss of their son Shane.

Drawing made by a child A global leader in palliative care, the Center’s compassionate services span the continuum from home to hospital, including communication with a child’s care team, connection to community-based services, symptom management, end-of-life planning and bereavement support. The Center also offers regular visits with child life staff who specialize in helping children navigate overwhelming and difficult-to-understand emotions.

Many of the palliative care team’s supportive services are, unfortunately, not covered by insurance companies, and so donors are crucial. The Justin Michael Ingerman Center for Palliative Care was named in 2019 through a generous donation from former CHOP Board of Trustees member Brad Ingerman, his wife, Laurie, and daughter, Danielle Ingerman Waltzer, in honor of Brad and Laurie’s late son. The Center’s offerings are supported in part through the meaningful generosity of Margaret Nolen.

The palliative care team’s support was pivotal for the Metzgar family as Shane’s condition began to decline. Child life specialist Kelly Gross, BS, CCLS, CTRS, worked closely with Shane’s siblings to help them prepare for their brother’s passing through therapeutic play and art projects. “Kelly gave them the power to decide how they wanted to say goodbye,” says Michelle. “Both of our children held their baby brother to say their final goodbyes.”

With support services continuing beyond a child’s passing, the Center for Palliative Care ensures families don’t have to face their loss — and their long-term grief — alone. Gross continued to work with the Metzgar family in both the home and school setting, and Michelle credits this ongoing support with her children’s ability to move forward. “We are forever grateful for the team and all they do for families like ours,” she says.

This is just one of the many stories of donor impact that happened during the campaign For Tomorrow’s Breakthroughs.