Surgeon’s kids’ digitized cards spread hope during COVID-19 pandemic

Mara Antonoff, M.D.’s children have been hand-delivering encouragement to her patients regularly, ever since the cardiothoracic surgeon joined MD Anderson in 2014. But that changed with the arrival of the 2019 novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19 and social distancing requirements. Now, Antonoff has taken her kids’ efforts digital. Early lesson in empathy starts sweet tradition Antonoff’s eldest children, Eliana and Sam, started designing get-well cards for her patients when they were only 6 and 5 years old. They handed them out in person at the hospital over the winter holidays. “The kids just had a lot of empathy,” says Antonoff. “I’d told them that having to work on Christmas Day wasn’t a lot of fun, but it was even worse for our patients in the hospital, because they were feeling sick, in pain or having to go through unpleasant treatments sometimes to get better.” The encouraging notes were so well-received that the children expanded their efforts in subsequent years to include more cards for more patients and creative gifts for Thanksgiving. They also started involving their classmates and their two younger siblings, as the latter were born and grew old enough to participate. “We’d invite over as many kids as the house could hold, then give them a giant pile of art supplies,” says Antonoff. “At Thanksgiving, we went to a craft store and found tiny little boxes. Eliana decorated them with fake leaves, little trinkets and positive messages of thankfulness.” Finding new ways to deliver hope during COVID-19 pandemic Life as we knew it changed with the spread of coronavirus and social distancing, says Antonoff, recalling her kids’ disappointment...