Krewe of Thoth brings healing power of Mardi Gras to Children's Hospital patients

Nurses removed a tube from Madison Byers' chest Saturday. So, naturally, on Sunday, the 6-year-old was curbside at Krewe of Thoth, raising her hand for Mardi Gras throws.

"I want beads! I want beads!" she cried as the first float drew near.

For years, Children's Hospital at Henry Clay Avenue and Tchoupitoulas Street has served as Thoth's unlikely line-up spot.

While high school cheerleaders and marching bands mill about outside, patients inside the hospital occasionally trickle out to the route to view this parade that prides itself on rolling past 14 institutions that care for people who are sick or disabled.

Madison, who has been hospitalized for the past 17 days, was one of just a handful of patients who were healthy enough to escape their hospital rooms Sunday and take in the scene from a red Radio Flyer wagon her nurses found for her.

She deposited her beads on the floor of the wagon and squeezed her stuffed animals -- a turtle, a crab, a kitten, a dinosaur and a bear -- close to the belly of her My Little Pony pajamas. Grandmother Renee Carter of Independence maneuvered Madison and her oxygen tank through the crowd, waved her arms to the floats and smiled. It was the first outing the pair shared since Madison was diagnosed with severe pneumonia.

The 610 Stompers get funky at Krewe of Thoth The ordinary men of the 610 Stompers bring their extraordinary moves to Henry Clay Avenue as the 1600-plus men of the Krewe of Thoth roll down Henry Clay with their 40-float parade "Thoth Says...Express Yourself" on Sunday, February 15, 2015.

"I feel better now," Carter said as she watched the parade pass. "I feel like we're on the other side."

Not many patients made the journey outside the hospital this year. But some got a taste of the festivities thanks to the 610 Stompers, who brought their moves into the hospital two hours before it was time to roll.

Katie Corkern of Amite, La., smiled broadly as she cradled her son, Connor, 8, in her lap. Before her, the men in red, white and blue pumped their fists and spun across the hospital auditorium, moving their ridiculous moves to Guns N' Roses, Barry Manilow and Three 6 Mafia.

"I love them!" she said afterwards. "It means so much."

The Corkerns have spent the past four Mardi Gras at Children's. Connor was born with a rare brain malformation called schizencephaly, which means he's frequently in and out of the hospital. And while Corkern said she would never take her son to a Carnival parade for health reasons, it's nice that Mardi Gras occasionally finds its way to them.

Out on Tchoupitoulas, 11-year-old Paul Reimonenq of Mandeville hung a plastic bag over his IV pole. Turns out, it's a handy way to store your throws.

Twenty-four hours earlier, his mother said, Paul was nearly comatose due to as-yet undiagnosed diabetes. His eyes were sunken. His lips were white. His energy was depleted.

"He couldn't even stand up," Senorita Reimonenq said.

After being rushed to Children's, physicians replenished Paul's fluids and got him feeling more like himself.

As Paul stood in his hospital gown Sunday, an IV tube stuck in each arm, his fellow-parade goers brought him toys, beads, a straw hat -- enough plastic and plush to merit a second plastic bag. His mother rubbed his head.

When the last float turned the corner down Henry Clay Avenue, downtown bound, Paul and his mother turned to head back toward the hospital.

A man in a purple hat walked by.

"Did you have a good day, buddy?" the man asked.

Paul nodded.

The man smiled and took a drag on his cigarette. "No other place in the world can you do what you just did," he said.

Rebecca Catalanello can be reached at rcatalanello@nola.com or 504.717.7701.