PALO ALTO (KPIX) — The restrictions due to the pandemic have already changed the holidays for so many people. For children who are spending Christmas in the hospital, it brings a new struggle. They’re not able to have family come visit.
One high school junior from San Jose who is battling leukemia says his one Christmas wish is to see his sister.
Sixteen-year-old Mateo Ocampo spent Halloween at Stanford’s Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, then Thanksgiving, now Christmas, and probably New Years as well. Because of COVID restrictions, the only people who are allowed into the hospital to visit him are his parents, which is especially hard during the holidays.
“FaceTime right now is my only way of communication,” says Mateo.
His entire life changed in an instant on October 25 when doctors told him, “You have cancer.” Mateo was diagnosed with leukemia and immediately started treatment. He was able to go home for one week as an outpatient, but a subsequent infection has kept him in the hospital ever since.
“It’s been hard to get into the Christmas spirit and to be happy during this time,” he says.
Stanford Children’s usually tries to bring some holiday cheer to the kids by inviting local sports teams to come visit. That can’t happen this year because of COVID.
“That would be pretty cool if I was able to experience that, but most of all I just want to be able to see some family members,” says Mateo.
He says Christmas for him is seeing all of his extended family, but most of all, he just wants to see his sister, Yazmine. She’s a freshman at Loyola Marymount University, in Los Angeles. He hasn’t seen her in person since she left for college in August, a few months before he was diagnosed with leukemia.
“During the holiday season, she’s here and it’s kind of my only opportunities to be with her,” he says.
According to the visitor policy at Stanford, that can’t happen this year. Only two family members are allowed into the hospital as designated caregivers and in Mateo’s case that’s his mom and dad.
“This whole COVID thing, it’s really impacted not just us, but anybody at any hospital, I assume, or anybody on the floor,” says Mateo’s father, David Ocampo.
While Mateo can’t get any visits from his sister or extended family, his parents say they’re still going to try to carry on with some family traditions.
“We’ll open up presents here, and we’ll Zoom with family all day. We’ll have some tamales here in the hospital.”
KPIX 5 reached out to Stanford Children’s to ask about the visitor policy. They said leadership does review additional visitor requests and exceptions can be made for extenuating circumstances, so maybe there is hope Mateo will get his Christmas wish after all.