Holiday pictures for patients at children's hospital - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Holiday pictures for patients at children's hospital

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MADISON (WKOW) -- A UW Health photographer is taking holiday photos of a few long-time patients and their families at the American Family Children's Hospital.

Ina Martinez is a playful three year old with a big smile.

At a glance, it is easy to forget she is dealing with a lot more than most kids her age--until you realize she is in the hospital.

It is a place she has been in and out of for the past six months since being diagnosed with leukemia. Ina also has Down Syndrome.

"You need to be strong and stay calm and have faith," said Gloria Martinez, Ina's mother.

Gloria says Ina was in for a routine visit when a doctor told her she and her family were in for a long, difficult journey.

After a few blood tests, a doctor said Ina would need to go to Madison for treatment because she had leukemia.

Gloria had no idea Ina was sick.

"We were able to catch it at a very early stage, which gave us a little bit more hope," Gloria said.

American Family Children's Hospital is making sure children like Ina get to enjoy the holidays despite their long hospital stays.

"If it is one little bit that makes their Christmas better, then we've got our job done," said John Maniaci, UW Health photographer.

Maniaci is taking holiday photos of patients who might not get the chance to celebrate at home.

"[Families here are] worried about their children's health and there are tests and there are surgeries, and they can't be thinking about Christmas presents or baking cookies or all those things a lot of people take for granted," Maniaci said.

Gloria said she appreciates the work the hospital staff does. She would not have been able to take pictures with her family without the Christmas card program.

"This is a very special gesture we are going to be able to share with the whole family," Gloria said.

Ina is reaching the end of her hospital stay, and Gloria is hoping she'll be home for Christmas.

"My girls knowing that this is the final [round of chemotherapy treatments]... this would make the best Christmas ever," Gloria said.

Ina has three older sisters waiting at home in Waupun for her.

Gloria's husband has been working to support the family, grandparents have helped care for the sisters and Gloria has stayed in Madison with Ina during the hospital visits.

Gloria says she is happy to bring Ina back home but also a little scared.

The normal life she and her family will be getting back to is not going to be the same "normal" they were used to before Ina's diagnosis, said Gloria.

"We are going to be living with that thing in the back of our heads, thinking it could come back," she said. "We are going to take it one day at a time."

The hospital photographer is giving each family a DVD with pictures they can send out to family and friends.

He says he will be taking photos with as many families who need it.

The program will likely continue next year.

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