Giving Hearts Day benefits patients like 7-year-old Carson

Child life specialist and music therapist help ease anxiety over IV insertions.

By: Kay Todd .

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Carson Gietzen, 7, has spent much of his short life in and out of the hospital, battling an immune deficiency.

When Carson was 2 weeks old, he started getting infections. Since then, he’s been diagnosed with a long list of medical conditions including chronic lung disease and adrenal insufficiency.

In the past year, Carson’s health has improved substantially. He has started undergoing intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) therapy at Sanford Children’s in Bismarck. This helps his body fight off infection.

“It’s been life-changing,” said Carson’s mother, Rachel. “He hasn’t had to be hospitalized with an infection for a year.”

Every three weeks, Carson takes a day off from first grade to receive treatments at the children’s hospital. He spends most of the time watching movies, playing video games and resting. However, he first needs to have an IV inserted for his treatment to be administered.

Until recently, Carson’s anxiety around these IV starts made the process painful for everyone involved.

Then, Sanford Bismarck launched western North Dakota’s first child life program. The team members — Ashley Renton, a certified child life specialist, and Bobbi Jo Vandal, a board-certified music therapist — started using distraction and coping techniques to help Carson during his IV starts.

Today, Carson’s experience has improved substantially. During his treatment, he composes songs based on his favorite video game, Fortnite, or wears a virtual reality headset to keep his mind off the needle.

“They have really learned to connect with him,” Rachel said. “They worked with us to give the best care for him. They just try to make him feel special.”

Sanford Health fundraising on Giving Hearts Day

On Valentine’s Day, communities across North Dakota and northwest Minnesota are coming together to celebrate Giving Hearts Day, a statewide day of giving back to local charities.

The Sanford Health Foundation is participating in the event with funds raised benefiting three regional causes:

  • Child life services at Sanford Children’s in Bismarck
  • Cancer Survivorship Program at Sanford Roger Maris Cancer Center in Fargo
  • Residents at the Sanford Hillsboro Care Center

To make a gift, visit givingheartsday.org on Feb. 14 and search “Sanford Health Foundation.” Choose the area you are most passionate about and make a donation of $10 or more.

These businesses and individuals will match gifts to the Sanford Health Foundation made on Giving Hearts Day: First International Bank in Trust in Bismarck, Sammons Financial in Fargo and the Dakota Medical Foundation and other generous donors in Hillsboro.

Donations made to the Sanford Health Foundation West on Giving Hearts Day will directly benefit the child life program and pediatric patients like Carson by helping sustain the child life program, a free service to families, at Sanford Children’s Bismarck.

Gifts made to Sanford Health Foundation Hillsboro will support North Dakota patients by helping upgrade to new modern resident beds at the Sanford Hillsboro Care Center.

Funds raised by Sanford Health Foundation Fargo support the Cancer Survivorship Program at Sanford Roger Maris Cancer Center. This program offers support groups, cancer retreats, personalized symptom management, informative newsletters, a cancer rehab program and more to cancer survivors from across the state.

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