VNA hosts gala event to benefit kids

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The average person will never see or even be aware of the things nurses of Visiting Nurse Association Homecare do on a daily basis.

VNA Homecare assists ailing children of all ages who are suffering with a range of fatal diseases, and who sometimes live in tenement houses right here in the Onondaga and surrounding counties.

“These children are coming over from refugee camps. When you think of a child who’s been in a refugee camp for five, six years coming to the United States and settling in our county, the needs are astronomical for these kids. I’ve had families that don’t even know how to use a fork or a spoon,” said Maria Giannino, maternal-child/pediatric clinical manager for VNA Homecare.

Tending to the needs of these children is the reason the VNA Foundation is holding its annual Autumn Gala fundraiser Oct. 14 at the historic Mandana Barn in Skaneateles. The event will take place from 1-4 p.m., and will feature wine tasting provided by the Lakeland Winery, live acoustic entertainment by Loren Barrigar and Mark Mazengarb and a silent auction with 50/50 and basket raffles.

“There are a lot of people in the community who we partner with that know the importance of the foundation and what we do. They want to see the event be successful. Ultimately if we have a successful event we’ll be able to continue our mission and continue changing the lives of children,” said Kimberly Graf, community relations manager of VNA Homecare.

The gala is the only annual fundraiser the VNA Foundation holds to raise money for its cause. The foundation relies solely on donations to provide support to patients and their families.

“Over the past three years alone, VNA Homecare has cared for over 1,000 patients in our maternal child’s program. That makes us the area’s premiere home health care provider,” said Graf.

Fundraiser aids cause

The more resources and support the foundation is able to put behind its mission, the more of an impact it is able to have, Graf said. Therefore, the fundraiser will play a big role in the ability of the nurses and the foundation to provide medical services to ailing children.

“Some of these children have been in our care for 18-20 years. We recognize that their needs transcend beyond just medical. We want to hold this event to continue to make sure that we can serve not just the children in the immediate region, but also those creating a demand in surrounding areas as well. We’re going to have to make sure that we’re able to continue providing medical care to them,” Graf said.

VNA Homecare is working toward expanding its home health care services to a greater number of patients in surrounding counties. Giannino and her team have seen the enormous number of children who suffer from terminal illnesses in Onondaga County alone. The number continues to grow in other counties as well, with VNA being one of only a few organizations with the resources to tend to those patients.

“The pediatric population is in such need in our own county, but we also find that we need to meet the needs for pediatric care in other counties. Through the years that I’ve been working here, I’ve noticed that the services we provide are not readily available to other counties. So one of our goals is to help other counties and expand our program,” Giannino said.

The money raised at the gala will be used to work toward that goal as well as to educate pediatric nurses and keep them informed of the updates in home care.

“Pediatrics is such a specialty that students who go into practice after nursing school don’t regularly take on pediatrics,” said Giannino. “We’re trying to educate them and keep them up to speed on all the changes that are happening in home care. Taking care of a child in the home versus in the hospital is totally different.”

A learning experience

VNA Homecare holds educational courses for nurses to learn how to care for specific illnesses and tend to medical equipment in the home. Students also accompany the nurses on visits to gain experience working with a child and his or her family at home.

“Kids who come home from the hospital with [synthetic] tracheas are on ventilators, and may have gastrostomy tubes. Families are so overwhelmed that they may need shift nursing in the home. So we have a mini hospital within the home. The nurses work with the families to provide the [synthetic] trachea care. We try to hold education classes for those nurses so they can be trained on how to care for [synthetic] tracheas and gastrostomy tubes, and how to care for these critically ill patients coming out of the hospital,” said Giannino.

VNA Homecare is the preferred provider for the Golisano Children’s Hospital. Nurses from VNA will assess any child who is discharged from the hospital, and will provide the after care the child requires.

Some children will require full-time assistance after they are discharged, Giannino said. VNA provides shift nurses who remain with the child at all times throughout the day in order to provide in-home care.

For children who are still able to attend school, the nurses will accompany that child during the school day. Giannino said school nurses are unequipped to provide the care VNA does, so her team will work with the school district in order to provide medical attention while the child attends classes.

“Some of these children who are critically ill might not be able to go to school. So the nurses make sure everything is put in place for the school district to send someone to teach the child, so their educational requirement is fulfilled,” said Graf.

Working together

VNA Homecare is the umbrella company to VNA of Central NY, Inc., VNA Foundation of Central NY, Inc., CCH Home Care & Palliative Services, Inc., Independent Health Care Services, Inc. and VNA Homecare Options, LLC.

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