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Child Life Specialist Jill Noha embodies "Mountaineer Mentality"

Jillian Noha—known by her friends and patients as Jill—knows the lasting impact her daily work as a Child Life Specialist can have on families.

Over the years, Jill and the team at West Virginia University Medicine Children’s Hospital have received letter after letter thanking Jill for her genuine support and kindness in their time of need.

One mother wrote to Jill, “You have been so encouraging and supportive and have honestly made us all feel so loved. You have made us feel like family, which is very important to us. Every bump in the road that we have hit so far, you have been there to get us over it.”

As a Child Life Specialist, Jill is tasked with helping children and families through some of the most difficult periods of their lives. Her unique training and experience allow her to make scary experiences—like delivering a cancer diagnosis, explaining an upcoming surgery, or saying goodbye—a little bit less intimidating. Jill believes her job is to advocate for those who don’t know how and support those who are struggling.

One of Jill’s patients was transferred to the hospital at only a few hours old. The patient was diagnosed with a complex cardiac anomaly and spent most of her short life in the hospital. Over 11 months, Jill advocated for her young patient and the patient’s family. Throughout her many surgeries, Jill made sure the patient’s parents and siblings had every opportunity to hold and interact with her just like they would any other baby. She worked with the patient’s siblings to make the ICU feel like a normal place, and when her patient passed away, Jill was by the family’s side.

Jill recently organized a Butterfly Release Ceremony for the families of children who have died at the hospital to honor the each child and the life they lived. At the ceremony, she was reunited with her patient’s family and met their newest addition—a baby girl named Jillian.

If you ask Jill to describe her job, she’ll probably tell you that a big part of her responsibility is celebrating her patients and bringing them joy. She organizes weekly hospital visits from the West Virginia University football team to share the “Mountaineer Mentality” with the children and their families. Jill defines this mentality as not giving up when things get tough, relying on your teammates, and getting back up again after a pitfall. The football team roots for the patients and their families, and on game day, the patients root for the team, wearing “Mountaineer Mentality” onesies and t-shirts Jill had made for them.

Jill is from Bel Air, Maryland. She loves football, and is an avid supporter of the Baltimore Ravens and—as you might be able to tell—West Virginia State University.

Child Life Specialists help normalize the hospital experience and bring joy and comfort to hospitalized kids and their families. Many of the funds raised by CMN Hospitals are used to fund Child Life programs and help make up the gap between what government and insurance pay for and the actual cost of caring for kids in our member hospitals.