UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica (File photo)


Marina Andalon

Daily Press Staff Writer

Last week on Dec. 9, Once Upon A Room gathered up volunteers to help decorate the children’s hospital rooms at UCLA, Medical Center, Santa Monica.

Once Upon a Room gives the children in the hospital a room they can love, and feel like it part of them. Based on the child’s like and special needs, they customize a plan to decorate their hospital room with items they can take home with them as they continue to recover.

Once Upon a Room, Director, Jennifer Haull said, “It is such a great feeling to come and decorate the rooms for the children. I am thankful for the volunteers who come out and do this, and decorate their rooms with everything they like. The best part of all this is when their face lights up when they see their room, that’s why I do this.”

The goal is to provide patients and their families with moments of fun and an opportunity to temporarily forget their diagnosis, struggle and fight.

Whitney and Mike Schmit have been long time residents within the Ocean Park neighborhood. They were one of many parents whose child had their hospital room decorated.

The two have been together for years, living in their small, cozy home. Then in June of 2015 they had their first child Tatum Schmit, at St. Johns Hospital in Santa Monica.

Now 18 months later, Tatum is going through chemo as she has Sacrococcygeal teratoma (SCT) which can be described as a cancerous tumor.

“It was probably around two months ago where I had a weird feeling that Tatum was not okay, she wasn’t acting like herself,” said mother, Whitney Schmit.

At the time Tatum was not using the restroom or drinking water, and Mike found a lump near the base of her tailbone and decided to take her to the hospital.

On Sept. 26 Tatum was admitted into the hospital as they found the lump was a tumor. Within two days of being admitted she had already started the chemo process.

“She has been handling this very well, it is a bit surprising sometimes. Tatum has made this her second home, and its great that people would donate their time to decorate these children’s rooms,” said Mike.

The family decided the best thing to do was to leave Santa Monica, since Tatum needs to be in a sterile environment and she would also need to be at UCLA Hospital in Westwood.

Whitney and Mike decided to move to the Sawtelle neighborhood, making it the middle location between both hospitals, UCLA Santa Monica and UCLA Westwood.

“It was sad to leave Santa Monica, it was home and it’s truly a great city. We knew this move is to help benefit Tatum and maybe one day we will be back in Santa Monica but for now we have to do what is best for Tatum,” said Whitney.

Tatum is currently finishing her fourth round of chemo and hopefully the last and final round. Removing whatever is left from the tumor, because if not the 18-month little girl will go through her fifth round of chemo. For now, she will go in for MRI’s and surgeries to removes the last of the tumor.

Now Tatum plays with her toys, watches her favorite movies like Beauty and the Beast and walks around the hospital while receiving treatment.

It can be a difficult to be sleeping and spending days in the hospital, especially around the holiday time. As for the Schmit family, it’s another home.

“To be completely honest I forgot about the holidays, it slipped my mind because the only thing that is important is Tatum,” said Mike. “We live day to day and we have learned how to live in the moment,” said Whitney.