Child Life brings home to the hospital


Maleah Whaley, 2, has been in and out of the hospital since she was an infant. Her longest time at Le Bonheur was seven months; her mother, Amanda, says they're not sure when Maleah will leave this time.

"Supposed to be going home Wednesday, then Thursday, then Friday. Now they're saying maybe this weekend, so we'll see," says Amanda.

It's never easy for a parent to see their child in pain, let alone hurting in the hospital.

At Le Bonheur Children's Hospital, they have a group of dedicated employees and volunteers to help turn that hurt into healing by bringing home to the hospital.

"For children what's normal is play, so obviously the hospital is not always the place where you get to play," says Child Life Specialist Mary Holland Doan.

On Thursday, Le Bonheur Children's Hospital's Child Life Therapists brought therapy dog "Kicker" to put a smile on her face.

It did more than that, though: Amanda says Kicker was almost better therapy for her daughter than most medical therapies.

"She was able to interact and touch and she can let us know she really enjoyed it," says Maleah's doctor Dr. Stephanie Storgion, "This is a real breakthrough for Maleah because when she's in the hospital here she really shuts herself down from us, but today she's actually talking to me which she usually doesn't talk to us."

Storgion says bringing a piece of home life to the hospital results in improvement in the child's mental state and their overall outcome.

Child Life Therapists are also looking out for the children's overall well being, incorporating education and stimulation into playtime, even with their one-year-olds.

"With Jordyn we just spend a lot of time reading books so you learn to words and playing with these blocks have just different sensory touchy-feely things on every page," says Doan.

Child Life is even there for the not-so fun times. Before surgeries or painful treatments, they're at the kids' sides with distractions. With younger kids, Doan says they're prepared with pacifiers, bubbles or just a comforting touch.

"With our bigger kids we have tons of tricks up our sleeve. We laugh and say often we're easy to spot because we have all sorts of different things with us. It might be bubbles, it might be an 'I Spy' book," says Doan.

Pediatricians at Le Bonheur say the attention and TLC Child Life Therapists provide for the children is oftentimes better than some medicine.

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