Twenty-five years ago, I was working as a respiratory therapist at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital working with ventilator-dependent children. A mother of a ventilator-dependent child expressed how emotionally trying and physically exhausting her child’s care was at home. She simply wished for one week a year where she wasn’t responsible for the 24/7 care of her child whose life depended on the ventilator. So, we made that wish a reality and created Trail’s Edge Camp.
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.
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:
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.
When I was a kid, I loved butterflies and bugs. My grandma lived next door and she fostered my fascination. Together we found caterpillars and watched them go through their life cycle and become butterflies. When I had my own children, I shared my hobby with them. I learned how to attract butterflies to my garden by growing native plants. Soon, the garden was a hit with not only my kids, but all the neighborhood children as well.
One day at work, I met Susan Fisher who also shared a passion for butterflies. We shared stories and she told me how she had given a friend who was a cancer patient a caterpillar. Her friend found great comfort in observing the lifecycle of the caterpillar as it transformed into a chrysalis and then a butterfly. Like Susan’s friend, many patients relate to those transformations when they experience their own changes as they go through the healing process. A light bulb popped in my head — wouldn’t it be great if we could bring this experience to more of our patients?
That’s when I decided to apply for a Fostering Innovation Grant to turn a vacant area of the courtyard into a native butterfly garden. Susan and I were thrilled when we learned the grant application was accepted. We started planting the garden last summer. Now many of the plants have matured, and we’re introducing the first butterflies and officially opening the Healing Butterfly Garden.