Child Life at the Women and Children’s Hospital
Our first week in Ulaanbaatar at the Women and Children’s Hospital was nothing short of amazing. Throughout the week I learned much more than I could have ever anticipated and am so sad to leave the sweet patients, families and staff members I have met.
At the beginning of the week I was filled with a lot of anxiety and was unsure how my role as a Child Life Specialist would be viewed. Thankfully, I was paired with an amazing social worker who is familiar with child life and has a passion to provide similar services to the patients she works with. Chimgee Naraa, is currently the only social worker that provides services to a 680 bed hospital along with providing services to the 1,100+ employees that work at the Women and Children’s Hospital. In her free time she also volunteers as a clown and comes in on the weekends to open the playrooms so the children can have some sort of socialization since volunteers are difficult to find.
Throughout the week, Chimgee and I were able to provide activities in the playroom as well as distraction during a variety of procedures. Honestly, I think I quickly became known as the girl with the book bag full of goodies and as a result, developed a pretty cool fan club that consisted of 5-6 oncology patients who followed me around everywhere I went. As I got to know the patients a little bit better, I was able to provide medical play in a group setting to show how basic medical supplies could be used in a non-threatening way. Medical play allows the patients control over objects that are often associated with negative feelings or painful experiences. By giving them an opportunity to manipulate those objects, they become less scary in the eyes of a child. Since medical supplies are not as prevalent as they are at Wolfson Children’s Hospital, Chimgee and I had to improvise and use what we could find. Fortunately, an OR nurse gave us some gauze and tape so we could make butterflies out of medical supplies. Following this activity we managed to scrounge up some masks and went to the Hem/Onc playroom and facilitated a therapeutic activity with the masks we found. During this activity, each child could decorate their mask and then share what made them brave. It was so wonderful hearing their responses and as you can imagine, they had some pretty amazing answers. It was during this activity that I was reminded how fortunate we are and truly resilient these children are. One patient in particular decorated her mask with pictures of the toys I had given her throughout the week and when it was her turn to share, she looked at me and said that the gifts I had given her made her brave and no longer scared. I think it is important to keep in mind that I gave this sweet fighter a stress ball, a small thing of bubbles and some Play-Doh. That was all it took for her to feel special and most importantly, to feel brave. If that does not put things into perspective, I don’t know what would!
As the week came to an end, we began forming great friendships with the nurses and residents, all of whom are phenomenal people that work so hard to provide the best care possible for their patients. Each person we worked with had such a desire to learn and were all so eager to talk to me about Child Life. Many even felt comfortable inviting me in to assist with procedures such as IV starts and bone marrow aspirates on patients that weren’t sedated. Overall, it was an amazing experience and I only wish I could stay longer at the hospital. I will definitely think of the patients, families and staff we worked with and hope that their journey only gets better until the next time we are fortunate enough to return.
I also wanted send a huge thank you to the Soud family and Dr. Sandler for making this possible. I do not think I will ever be able to adequately tell you how much this trip has meant to me and how thankful I am for your support both personally and professionally. I have no doubt that Jonathan is beyond proud of this mission you have started and I feel so fortunate to have been a small part of it.
Patients undergo all of their lumbar punctures and bone marrow aspirates while awake. For this procedure, Lindsay tucked herself into the corner and offered some pain relief via distraction.
Enjoying some bubbles and practicing deep breathing in the playroom.
Bubbles are a great way to provide distraction and get any patient to focus on their breathing during painful procedures.
“Play is the work of children”
So much of my heart now belongs to these brave fighters!
These 3 brave boys were so sweet and fun to work with. They followed me around everywhere I went.
This little cutie was so happy playing with the bubbles that he did not even notice the procedure that was taking place.