Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital staff helps hospitalized boy experience eclipse

North Carolina child had surgery Sunday, but set up special telescope in front of hospital Monday

Columbia, S.C.—Jonas Prager, 11, received a powerful telescope for Christmas several years ago and was excited about traveling from his home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina to Columbia, South Carolina to see the total solar eclipse. Jonas and his parents, Darren Prager and Annie Oberstar, packed their tent and telescope for a much-anticipated long weekend trip, but things did not go the way they anticipated.

By Friday afternoon, Jonas began having stomach pain, but his parents thought maybe it was just an upset stomach that would go away. The family moved forward with their plans. They checked into their hotel in Columbia in anticipation of the eclipse.

By Saturday evening, Jonas’ parents knew something was wrong. He now was having severe abdominal pain and fever, so his parents brought him to the Children's Emergency Center at Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital. He was diagnosed with appendicitis and pediatric surgeon Juan Camps, M.D., performed surgery Sunday around noon.

The family was grateful for the excellent care they received, but understandably disappointed that Jonas was so ill. They didn’t want Jonas to miss out on this once in a lifetime event. They asked for permission to set up their tent and Jonas' telescope on the front lawn of Children's Hospital in hopes of bringing Jonas outside for a few minutes to see the eclipse. They received permission and the telescope was a fun surprise for Palmetto Health team members and patient families.

“Setting up the telescope was a small way of giving back,” said Darren Prager. “It was a joy to share the excitement of the eclipse with others. We have felt so supported by the care team at Children’s Hospital.”

Jonas was able to experience the eclipse after all. “We brought him outside with the help of the Child Life team. He was in a lot of pain, but he was there for totality,” said Annie Oberstar.

This was a special moment for everyone but also is a great example of what the Child Life program at Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital does every day. Their role is to help children and their families cope with health care experiences while still allowing them to enjoy each moment. The certified child life specialists are child development experts who focus on the emotional and developmental needs of children and families in a health care setting.

Christy Fink, manager of Child Life, said, “We were ecstatic to be able to help Jonas and his family experience this once-in-a-lifetime event. Our Child Life team is honored to help our patients enjoy each day even when they are sick. We understand how hard it is for the children and their families to miss out on experiences. We want to do everything we can to fill that gap and help promote their healing.”

“The eclipse offered a connection with the universe you don’t think about all the time,” said Darren Prager. “We’re already looking forward to the next solar eclipse in 2024.”

About Palmetto Health Children's Hospital

Palmetto Health Children's Hospital is South Carolina’s first children's hospital and has more than 150,000 children’s visits each year. It offers more than 30 subspecialties to meet the unique health care needs of children and has central South Carolina's only Children’s Emergency Center. With more than 350 professionals who work exclusively with children, Palmetto Health Children's Hospital has a team of highly skilled and trained experts unmatched by any hospital in the Midlands. Palmetto Health Children's Hospital is the place to go for children's medical care, because the best care matters.