Casey Reyes and Mildred Figuera have known each other for 17 years, since Reyes was a toddler diagnosed with sickle cell disease and Figuera was assigned as her patient care assistant, but the two swore Tuesday there was no collusion as they sat together in matching Minion costumes.
“When I saw her come in … I was like, ‘You’re a Minion!’” recounted Reyes, 19, who on Tuesday was wearing the Despicable Me characters’ distinctive blue overalls, her face painted yellow with gray spectacles daubed around her eyes. “And I pointed to my costume, and I had to hurry up and put it on so we could be twins.”
At Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, Halloween means reverse trick-or-treating — because many of the patients are unable to leave their beds, nurses, doctors and staff visit them, wearing costumes and bearing gifts of whoopee cushions, play dough, crayons and slime. Candy and other edible treats are absent, however, because many of the children are unable to eat or have severe dietary restrictions.
Reyes, a New Britain native, has been coming to Connecticut Children’s since she was 2. “There’s always pain crises, stuff like that,” she said of the symptoms of sickle cell. She suffered one about 10 days ago, and has been in the hospital since.
“When your parents aren’t here, you feel pretty alone. And even when they are here, you still feel kind of alone,” she said.
But Figueroa — Milly, as Reyes calls her — has always been there when her parents couldn’t.
“We talk together, laugh together, celebrate together,” Figueroa said. “Cry together.”
Down the hall, Oliver Mangham — or Ash Ketchum, for the day — was recovering from a burst appendix. His surgery team had traipsed through earlier dressed as the Toy Story cast, bearing coloring books and play dough.
Mangham, a fourth-grader at Farmington’s Noah Wallace Elementary, checked into Connecticut Children’s Saturday and hadn’t been looking forward to spending his second-favorite holiday after Christmas in the hospital, he said.
“But now that I’m here, and I’m doing this,” he said, “I’m glad I can actually do stuff and be a part of Halloween.”
The hospital’s executive team went room to room dressed as the Sesame Street cast, and a band of 50s-themed radiologists roamed the halls, led by an Elvis gone to seed.
Pediatrician Rob Keder, who was dressed as Newt Scamander of Harry Potter fame, distributed plastic versions of the franchise protagonists’ iconic spectacles. A stuffed toy niffler rested on his briefcase.
For Reyes, the younger of the two minions on the hospital’s eighth floor, Tuesday was her third Halloween at Connecticut Children’s. Her first was when she was 5 years old.
She’s 19 now, but there was never any doubt she’d be dressing up this year.
“You’re never too old,” she said. “You’re always a kid at heart.”