I always knew I wanted to work with children, I just wasn’t sure what avenue that would take. During one of my school breaks my sophomore year at Central Michigan University, I did what is called an alternative break. I joined a group volunteering at St. Jude Children’s Hospital. I fell in love with the Child Life profession while I was there.
I love my job. I first interned at Mott about five years ago and then joined the team as a Child Life Specialist. Today, I work with pediatric patients in our radiation oncology unit. Before I started here, there was not a Child Life Specialist on this unit and about 40 percent of the patients had to be sedated for their radiation treatment. Because most of the kids receive radiation multiple days in a row, sedating them so frequently was a concern. We’ve been able to reduce that to about 2 percent.
Spending time in the hospital isn’t a piece of cake, but on Fridays at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital it’s cupcake time. Every Friday from 2 to 3:30, we host Cupcake Therapy in the Family Center. Cupcake Therapy is a great informal time for family members and patients to relax and enjoy decorating cupcakes.
Each week we have a theme based on the season or what’s happening at the University or in the Health System. We’ve done St. Patrick’s Day, spring flowers, March Madness, maize and blue and even made Despicable Me-themed Minion cupcakes. Chef Steve Shifano and his staff bake the cupcakes and the Family Center provides the frosting and all the decorations. Ann Hendrick, Family Center Coordinator, and I roll out the cupcake cart each Friday. We create a few sample cupcakes each week and those who come down to decorate use our theme and then express their own creativity.
We started calling it Cupcake Therapy after one of our Friday regulars came down and said he was there for Cupcake Therapy. Continue reading →
Like many parents, I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about congenital heart defects. That changed a little over 13 years ago. It was then, at my 20 week ultrasound, that it was discovered my unborn baby would be born with a severe heart defect called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, which essentially meant only half of his heart would be the normal size needed to function.
We learned a lot that day. We were told that heart defects were the most common birth defect, that I didn’t do anything to cause it, and it was likely a ”fluke.” We learned that his options were limited, his mortality rate was significantly increased and that we could have a lifetime of unknowns and medical care ahead of us. We were told his best chance at survival would be to have one of three open heart surgeries just days after birth.
A hundred bubbles were flying in the air, with a dozen children excitedly popping them.
I pointed to the sky and shouted “la luna!” All eyes turned and gazed at the moon clearly visible in the early evening sky.
“She’s rising” I said. “Does anyone know what phase the moon is in?” “Waxing”, one boy answered. “Yes…it’s a sliver on the right – getting bigger every night! See you tomorrow moon.” We all waved skyward, then bubbles flew again!
These moments happen daily at Leslie Science & Nature Center, where we draw attention, use teachable moments, and hone observations about what is happening around us in the natural world.
Creating opportunity for daily observation of the natural world is a great way to engage children and adults together, to explore questions, create a moment of respite and observe beauty. These moments can refresh us at the core – perhaps even at the soul level. Take time to see changes through the seasons, look at patterns, colors and shapes. Look at living things up close, look far – at broad expanse of the landscape, silhouettes, shadows and tree shapes. Looking “far” relaxes our eyes, especially in a culture of up close texts and computer screen time. Even when we simply observe the bubbles we blow, we can observe the elusive wind, as the bubble orbs rise and undulate, shifted by the invisible hand of air currents and updrafts. Observations are, of course, best done outside, but if you are unable to venture out – find a large window to the world. This can still offer many great observations.
Here are four simple observation games you can try:
One of the new “healing murals” being installed in C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital
A visit to the hospital is hardly on the list of fun things to do — especially if you’re a kid. Many parents – myself included – have noticed a lack of distractions available for the children who were waiting to see a doctor or have a procedure. I’m sure I am not the first person to have wondered — wouldn’t it be nice to use some of the big, open walls in the new hospital to create something that would be visually interesting for all visitors and something what would engage the children while they wait?
I took my idea to the Mott Patient and Family Centered Care advisory group where the idea was refined with the input of the Mott families and staff. Together, we decided that a mural was a great way to make use of wall space that was currently blank. We discovered an amazing Michigan-based artist, Tracy Leigh Fisher, who had created murals in other hospitals as well as individual homes.