Gifts of joy wrapped in love delivered to sick children Dr. Lollipop makes Christmas rounds

December 26, 1992|By Timothy B. Wheeler | Timothy B. Wheeler,Staff Writer

The last place any child wants to be is in the hospital. Especially on Christmas.

But a tough holiday became a little brighter for 5-year-old Nathan Venditta and other sick children at the University of Maryland Medical Center, thanks to Dr. Lollipop and her motley medical "staff," which included an operatic duck and a candy-toting mouse.

From her white coat, the red-wigged, clown-faced "doctor" pulled out a stethoscope with a plunger on the end.

"You want to listen to my heart?" she asked Nathan, who was walking the hospital corridor with his mother and an intravenous-fluid rack in tow. "Doesn't it sound like a dripping toilet?"

The boy's glum expression began to thaw.

Dr. Lollipop, played by Judy Goldblum-Carlton, and her costumed crew of volunteers clowned and caroled their way through the halls of the hospital's pediatric section yesterday.

Their mission, part of a program sponsored by B'nai B'rith, a Jewish women's group, was to cheer up those young patients too sick to be home for Christmas.

The hospital's part-time humor therapist, Ms. Goldblum-Carlton, who lives in Columbia, visits sick youngsters on the fifth floor every day "to help them remember that life has smiles."

"Actually, I try to make every day feel like Christmas," she said.

On those days, she wheels around a cart loaded with books, games and videos to hand out.

Yesterday, she and her helpers decorated cupcakes for the few children who could not be sent home for the holiday weekend.

"This is a neat Christmas present for him," said Nathan's mother, Carin.

Nathan, who lives in Hagerstown, has been hospitalized since Tuesday.

Diagnosed with leukemia in July, he had a "little problem" this week that required treatment, his mother said. Her other two children were spending the holiday with grandparents.

Down the hall, David Manzano's liquid brown eyes danced from one costumed character to another as they serenaded 28-month-old David with "Feliz Navidad."

David sucked solemnly on a lollipop as he sat in a stroller with a plastic breathing tube attached to his nose.

The little boy, who is from Honduras, had been awaiting surgery in Ohio for a congenital heart defect, but came to Baltimore to visit relatives and became ill, said Dr. Michael Begnan.

Assisting Dr. Lollipop yesterday was her son, Benjamin, 9, who posed as "Dr. Pepper" and kept squirting himself with the trick camera.

Then there was "Nurse Beddy-Pan," played by Lennox Hood; Daniel Duck, portrayed by aspiring opera singer Jason Fiske; and Mr. Hood's mouse-costumed mother, Martha, who dispensed candy to the children from a bedpan.

"It's difficult to see children who are critically ill and depressed," said Ms. Goldblum-Carlton. "But seeing them laugh makes it worth it."

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