Skip to main content

Child Life month feature: CCLS Maggie Heimbuch

In January 2001, Maggie Heimbuch was hired as a certified child life specialist for Geisinger Janet Weis Children’s Hospital. As Geisinger celebrates the 40th anniversary of the child life program Maggie is celebrating her 20thanniversary as well.

Today we get to know CCLS Maggie Heimbuch.

Hometown: Chinchilla, PA

College: The Pennsylvania State University

Family: “I am married to my husband of 17 years, Doug, and we have two children, Maggie, 12, and Doug, 10. Both names have been passed down in our families for generations. 😊 And I can’t forget our dog Sport.”

Favorite food: “I love Mexican food and my family, and I always fit taco Tuesdays into our week, but I also love warm chocolate chip cookies.”

Favorite superhero:  “The kids are always my favorite superheroes. It amazes me every day how strong and resilient each and every one of them can be going through all they go through.”

Favorite children’s book: The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Llama Llama Red Pajamas

Favorite movie:Princess Bride but Cinderella also has a special place in my heart as my daughter and I used to have slumber parties and watch Cinderella all the time.”

Favorite game: “Settlers of Catan and Carcassonne are my favorite boardgames. MarioKart is my favorite videogame. We play a lot of games at our house.”

Favorite TV show:  “Friends and many other sitcoms now only in reruns.”

When you aren’t working, how do you like to spend your time?
“I love to sew! Halloween costumes for my kids and christening outfits for my kids, nieces and friends have been my favorite projects. Other hobbies are baking and photography! I also spend my time volunteering as a girl scout leader for my daughter’s troop, cub scout pack treasurer for my son’s pack and running my kids to softball, baseball and ice hockey practices and games. My family and I also volunteer every summer at Camp Spifida. A weeklong camp for kids ages 6-18 with Spina Bifida located at Camp Victory in Millville, PA.”

Special talent or stupid human trick you may possess?
“I can wiggle my ears.” 😊

What made you want to be involved with the Child Life Department?
“So many children, and their families, come into the hospital not knowing what to expect, not knowing the medical language that the staff is speaking, not knowing what they will leave the hospital looking like or feeling like; and the fact that we get to empower patients and family members with this information in age appropriate ways, mostly through play, is an absolutely amazing experience.”

What is your favorite part of what you do?
“Whether we are making a movie theater under a surgical drape while a procedure is happening so that a child is distracted, sewing a g-tube into a doll so that a sibling can see what will be in the tummy of their baby brother or sister who will be coming home soon, helping a family make a mold of their child’s hand who has just passed away so that they have a memory to take home with them, making pictures by squirting paint from syringes so that syringes do not seem so scary, or setting up a graduation in the hallway of the children’s unit so that a 6 year old does not miss his kindergarten graduation; we have always strived to make the experience of the patients and families that we see as positive as possible. There are so many parts of my job that I would consider my favorite. Some parts are not always easy, but it is always an honor to be allowed into the lives of these families.”

Tell me something that was very touching for you personally while performing your job?
“I have been a child life specialist here for 20 years but have only been in the NICU for a little over a year. It has been a great new experience. With the pandemic we have not been able to have photographers come into the NICU to take pictures of the babies. Because I dabble in photography and love taking pictures of my own two kids, I have offered many times to bring my camera in and take pictures for families. We have been able to photograph special milestones such as the first time a parent has been able to hold their baby, the first time the baby was able to wear clothes, their first Halloween costumes, or (my favorite) the first time twins are able to be held together in mom’s arms. To see moms and dads tear up with happiness at being able to capture these moments warms my heart every time. It’s an honor to be a part of those special moments.”

How have donations to Children’s Miracle Network at Geisinger helped you to perform your job?
“We could not run our department the way we do without donations from CMN. Donations are used for so much of our programming from distraction items, teaching items, stocking our playrooms, and activities for the kids to funding new positions for the first couple years and special events. Starting a new position in the NICU, I was able to buy everything needed to start a successful program. I was able to buy rattles and toys, mobiles and crib soothers to encourage developmental stimulation as well as teaching items for parents and siblings. It has been such a great benefit to have both CMN donations and our CMN staff as such a huge support for our program.”