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Spending the holidays in the hospital

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Buffalo: Spending the holidays in the hospital
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Geoff Redick finds out what some hospitals are doing to make the holidays special for those who can’t be home.

What's the difference between this Christmas tree and most others? This one, is in a hospital. And for the holiday season, so is Cecil Van Houten.

"If somebody had said to me five years ago, 'You're going to be in the hospital someday waiting for a heart transplant,' I would've said, 'You're crazy. There's no way,'" said Van Houten.

Van Houten had already been hospitalized nearly five weeks when we spoke with him. That means he missed Thanksgiving.

"This year, obviously, I'm here. So my wife went to the house, spent some time with family, picked up some Thanksgiving dinner and brought it in. We enjoyed a nice dinner here," Van Houten said.

Thousands of hospital and nursing home patients spend the holidays away from home each year. Millions more will fall ill and spend their holiday at home.

"We talk to people a lot about, just really, communicating about what's important to them, how they're feeling, what they're feeling up to," said Patrice Rogers, URMC social worker.

Outpatient counselors like Patrice Rogers say it's necessary to acknowledge the need for slight changes to the holiday routine.

Rogers said, "Helping them figure out what some new traditions might need to be, or kind of changing their expectations. Things are a little different now, and maybe they can't do things as they've always done them and that's okay."

For Van Houten, the changes this Christmas will be vast.

"Well, the usual tradition is we would stop by our kids’ homes and visit with them and the grandchildren," Van Houten said.

This year, the meal and presents will most likely be in his hospital room.

Van Houten said, "I think it'll be okay. To me, family matters. I love traditions. If you are in a different place in your life where you're not able to enjoy that, one year or two years, then so be it. You make the best of what you've got."

A holiday spirit, we can all share in.

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