Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Field Trip

I saw something really interesting at the hospital yesterday. Jordan and I were there for an ortho visit, and I noticed a group of about 15 kids around kindergarten age who looked to be touring the hospital together. I knew they weren't patients because I saw them boarding a school bus to leave. I really do hope they were there visiting a kid from their class who was a patient there. However, my first thought was that they were on a field trip. "How nice that this is their field trip," I thought, "rather than their real lives."

Some kids are only visiting this life of hospital visits. Some kids go through life with runny noses, ear infections, and nothing more. These kids can visit a children's hospital as outsiders, be led around by a friendly hospital volunteer, maybe try on a doctor's white coat, listen through a stethoscope, maybe have a few laughs over trying on non-latex gloves and blowing them up like a balloon. They can learn about doctors and medicine the same as if they were visiting a museum.

Other kids are constant patients undergoing testing, surgeries, PT; being fitted for braces, wheelchairs, walkers, crutches. Some kids' lives have stopped altogether as they undergo chemotherapy. Strange how different life can be if your roll of the dice is to have a chronic medical condition. I would have loved to save Jordan from this life of hospital visits and therapies. But somehow we know something the field trippers don't know--how fragile life is and how thin the line is between them and us.


Cheryl said...

As someone who grew up in a hospital w/ortho issues and who wants to spend the rest of my life working in a peds hospital w/kids, I have to comment. I also hope that the kids were there visiting a classmate. You and I both know how much that means to someone.

However, your post overall is a bit cynical. Your sidebar says you belong to the philly disstud meet up group so I am going to make an inference that your ortho is at CHOP. Never been there, heard GREAT things about that place though. CHOP has MANY child life specialists, and their dept is internationally known. It's what I'm studying to be and that's one of the hospitals I would DIE to work in. If you don't know what a child life specialist is, visit Then hook Jordan up w/one of the CLS there. If you are at a smaller hospital not all small hospitals have a CLS on staff, but many do. If they don't, ask why. Speak up!

CLS are educators. While a lot of what they do is play (I've played UNO so much as a volunteer that at one time just looking at the cards made me want to throw up) it's not just play but rather experiential education. For example, the kid I played UNO w/for MONTHS was a 10yo w/cognitive issues. We were working on him getting his colors straight.

To many, many kids the hospital or any medical setting can be a very scary place. Especially if you're having something done. Those are the kids (me, Jordan, the UNO kid) that we think of first. At a very young age I was traumatized by cast saws. Used to scream bloody murder anytime anyone came near me w/one. CLS have a lot of specified training and are able to explain what is going on in a developmentally appropriate way and also come up with techniques to help the child through the procedure. Glitter wands and bubbles are particularly popular for whatever reason.

Does the kid that goes in for a physical once a year and is terrified of his blood draw not deserve education & bubbles too? What about the kid who's sibling, aunt, uncle, cousin, parent, best friend has to be in and out of the hospital. CLS do a lot of sibling education to explain what is going on. In the case where a parent was in a severe accident and is in the ICU hooked up to a plethora of scary tubes, a CLS might take a picture of the parent to teach the kid what each machine is in advance. Maybe they're scared but won't say so. The CLS can work through play &/or art to help the kid (patient or fam member) to express themselves and will be able to clear up any misconceptions. For example, just because someone "takes your blood pressure" doesn't mean it's gone.

So maybe those kids will always just be visitors, or maybe they won't, but either way it is important to remember that medical settings can have a lasting impact on anyone, and why should it be such a horrible one. I'm weird. I like hospitals. Although I associate them w/UNO and therapy dogs more then the horrific pain. Shouldn't everyone?

Twxee said...

That's great that you want to do CLS work! Of course I know what it is. My brother was in the hospital for months with brain damage when he was a kid, and the CLS people were great with him. We go to to duPont in Wilmington, DE (my brother did, too!). It's also a wonderful hospital with more of a personal touch, I think, than CHOP. I never thought of the CLS people as being for outpatients. I just know when I take Jordan there for an appt, I want to get in and get out and not deal with anything else, even if it is "fun." He has fun wherever we go, though, even the hospital! Thanks for your comment and for making me think more about how the hospital doesn't have to be strictly a bad thing. Maybe it seems worse as a parent watching your child go through stuff.

Cheryl said...

I saw that picture of Jordan in his cast and it gave me a flashback. No one ever took time with me with cast cutters and when I was his age just the site of one would send me into sheer panic, blood curtailing screams. CL isn't as common in outpatient settings. Some hospitals have them standard, some don't, but ALL hospitals w/CLS on staff have someone on call for outpatient areas. If Jordan's ever scared out of his mind DEMAND ONE!

Lyn said...

Way to bum me out! I'm sad I can't be around to help 'sit Jordan -- he must need a break from learning how many hit points drow have!

Katja mit Fabian und Florian said...
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