Jul 16, 2021 Mom’s Letter In Appreciation of the SNAP Program

Saint Barnabas Medical Center, in Livingston, NJ, recently received a well-deserved, heartfelt letter from a mom in appreciation of our Special Needs Ambassador Program (SNAP) and Bonnie Sacks, RN, BSN, MAS, Clinical Director of Pediatrics and Child Life Manager, who coordinates the program. 

“As a mom and full-time caregiver of a 12-year-old son with autism and developmental disabilities, I am usually not writing letters in the rare quiet moments that I find for myself. However, after our family's visit to Saint Barnabas Medical Center yesterday, I am grateful for the chance to share with you our deep appreciation of the Special Needs Ambassador Program (SNAP) at Saint Barnabas.

ln the fall of 2O19, when our pediatrician prescribed blood work for our son Robert, my first thought was, "How is this going to happen?" I reached out to a local support group for families with children with autism for a recommendation. A parent informed me about SNAP and I was given contact information for the program’s coordinator Bonnie Sacks, RN, BSN, MAS, Clinical Director of Pediatrics and Child Life Manager. From the first communication, Bonnie was responsive, compassionate and collaborative in arranging the best way to support Robert in the procedure. She referred me to QA Coordinator Lori Keller, who efficiently handled all of the registration details prior to scheduling the appointment. This crucial step alleviated waiting room time on the day of the procedure, which makes all of the difference when bringing in a special needs child who has limited expressive language and anxiety. It also allows the parents to be fully present and reassuring to their child, keeping the climate calm.

At our first visit to the lab, Robert was understandably afraid and tried to avoid entering, but Bonnie and the phlebotomy team that worked with us were caring, skilled and encouraged him throughout the procedure. The success of this visit carried over to our second experience with SNAP in February 2020 when Robert had an EKG. ln preparation, Bonnie advised on how to "practice" at home by simulating an EKG with stickers and colored string. EKG "practice" was a hit with Robert. On the day of the test, Robert walked right into Saint Barnabas, nervous but curious and with the memory of a place where kind people had helped him. Once again, with the professional and patient staff by his side, Robert successfully completed another medical procedure.

Yesterday was Robert's second blood work procedure requiring 9 vials. ln the days leading up to the appointment, we drove Robert past the Cooperman Family Pavilion and recalled "That's where we see Nurse Bonnie." We quietly marveled as Robed entered the building, greeted Nurse Bonnie and Child Life Specialist Laura, walked through the corridors to the lab, sat nicely in the waiting room and walked into the lab without incident. Then Robert chose to sit in the chair independently and sat cooperatively through the entire procedure, with all of us holding his hands, helping him count to 30 repeatedly and cheering him on continuously. The trust that was built from previous positive experiences with Bonnie and the SNAP Team made the once unimaginable achievement possible.

Even before receiving the test results, we were ready to celebrate.

Thank you very much for offering the Special Needs Ambassador Program at Saint Barnabas. It has given us peace of mind to know that even when faced with challenging procedures, there is a place with exceptional professionals who are empathetic to parents and treat our children with kindness and respect.”


Elizabeth Vigna

For more information about the SNAP program at Saint Barnabas Medical Center, visit our website.