Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Child Life Month :: The Keeper of The Stories

I wanted to share my experiences in Child Life this month.  My goal was to share stories of my profession to bring awareness to the field and those impacted by the work being done.  I have so many stories.  I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly and, if given the opportunity, I would teach the world the importance of play.  I believe in the power of play and I believe in the importance of child life.

I sat down to write on many occasions and reminisced about my work and the work of my colleagues that I so admire.  The words came and the stories were written, but I couldn't publish them.  So many of those stories are so personal.  They might include me as a main character, but they are about so much more.  And to post them in this way may cheapen them or normalize them, but there is nothing normal about what goes on within a hospital and the lives impacted are worth so much more than the words I could type on this blog.

Just know is that hard work is being done inside the hospital.  Lives are being saved, but even beyond the physical healing, there are opportunities for emotional and mental healing that are provided through play.  The Play Ladies (and gentlemen) are there to allow kids to continue their stories and we feel honored to take even a small part in those stories.  We are happy to hold the space and, even though the work is often heavy and exhausting, we will usually be the ones with a smile on our face and bubbles in our hand.

Even though I have been out of the hospital raising my baby, this is still an important part of my life and I am so thankful to all of you who have celebrated this month with me!  If you know a child life professional, there is still time to celebrate their work and let them know they are making a difference!  Happy Child Life Month!

Monday, March 16, 2015

If you resent it...

Dr. Sears is a well-known man who people love and love to hate.  He brings a lot of controversy into conversations and, while I do not agree with all of his ideas and theories, I had a bit of an ah-ha moment after reading an article he had written about high-needs babies.  In the article he encourages parents to do what feels right to them in order to ease into parenthood and the relationship with baby naturally.  In the article he made the following statement:

"If you resent it, change it"

Those words have been resonating with me for weeks.  It really can be that simple.  Do what works for you and change what doesn't.  I don't believe change is easy or quick, but I do believe this outlook can empower us in life and lead to less complaining which often leads to happiness, peace and a content spirit.

So keep up the good work, do what works and change what doesn't.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Child Life Month :: The Power In Being With

Recently I was reminded of work I did with a 10 year old boy, we'll call him Alex.  Alex was admitted to the PICU after a terrible accident that left him paralyzed from the neck down and he sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI).  After Alex's body was stabilized through many surgeries and medical intervention, the staff began to wean his sedation to assess his mental status and injury from the TBI.  It was unlikely Alex would ever communicate again and he seemed to be neurologically devastated.

Alex was admitted during a particularly slow time in the PICU (otherwise, I am ashamed to say, he may not have received as much attention from me).  I was told he had no child life needs.  But things were slow so I would go in at least once a day to read to him.  He would stare blankly at the wall and gave me no indication that he even knew I was there.

While spending time with him I would always ask him to blink once for yes and to blink twice for no, but never had a response.  One day I came in to some cartoons geared toward toddlers on the TV.  I appreciated the effort of whoever turned the TV on, but laughed out loud and said, "I bet you love these baby cartoons huh Alex? We should find something cooler to watch".  And I thought I saw him blink.  

I asked him to blink again.....nothing.  He stared right through me and I started to second guess myself.  But I realized how scared he must have been and I wondered if anyone had explained what happened to him.  I introduced myself to him again and explained that he was in the hospital after a very bad accident.  I told him the doctors and nurses were taking good care of him because his body was very sick and needed help.  He didn't respond.  I didn't want to overwhelm him so I stopped there and started reading again.  

Every day I reminded him of my name, that I was there to read and that his body was hurt, but there were lots of people to help.  One day I asked him if I could start a new book and I showed him a Spider Man book and he responded by blinking one very long, purposeful blink!  He was scared and since he couldn't get up and run away, he did what he needed to do to protect himself.  But when he felt safe enough he started to communicate through blinking.  In building rapport, we were able to learn that he loved superheroes, Pokemon and the window blinds open.  

Soon Alex no longer needed intensive care and he was transferred to an area where he eventually was able to get in a wheel chair and use a communication device to interact with others.

In the ICU, there are many faces and it can be difficult to have consistency.  I am so thankful that child life specialists can often be a consistent, familiar face in a time of crisis!  Happy Child Life Month!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Internet Inspiration

Being a mom has been a bumpy ride for me.  I experience the highest highs and the lowest lows in a day (sometimes in an hour) and having a baby who enjoys A LOT of togetherness has pushed me in ways I never imagined.  I have to say though that it feels good to not be alone.  I have good moms all around me and I have learned these feelings are shared by many.

Lately, I have come across some amazingly, talented moms who use technology to encourage, inspire and share their lives and I wanted to make sure you know about them too!  Their openness about parenting and living in the day-to-day has been such a blessing to me!

Ashley blogs here and you can follow her on Instagram @underthesycamore

Tiffany from @thegraygang on Instagram 

Emily blogs here and you can follow her on Instagram @todaysletters

Lesley from here and you can follow her on Instagram @lesleyzellers

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Look At The Bigger Picture

As an intern, I was mostly interested in seeing procedures, surgeries, traumas, etc.  I learn by observing first-hand so these things appealed to me.  Even as an experienced child life specialist, I feel most helpful in the 'action', which is what drew me to the PICU.

One day, as an intern, there was a procedure I had hoped to observe.  I knew about it the day before and had spent that evening planning my approach, what I would need for teaching and distraction and how I would advocate.  The time came for the procedure and my supervisor sent me to another patient to asses her needs and build rapport.  To say I was disappointed would be an understatement.  Not only was I missing out on something exciting, but I spent the next two hours beading string for necklaces with a 7 year old.

In that moment I was annoyed and wondered if my supervisor thought I wasn't able to handle the procedure.  After I expressed my concerns and she told me she thought the 7 year old was a higher priority and asked me why that might be.  I had no idea.  I couldn't even make something up.  She didn't answer the question for me, but by the end of the week I knew.

The 7 year old had little family support, English was not her primary language and her new diagnosis would require multiple procedures over the next couple days.  By taking time to make a necklace when the stress level was moderately low, this child and her mom trusted me when things got hard.  They invited me to be a part of their team and allowed me to advocate for their needs when they didn't know how.  My supervisor had the experience to know what the patient's symptoms may require and she could see the bigger picture.


Monday, March 2, 2015

Happy Child a Life Month!

March is Child Life Month!  We used to always laugh and say that the less you make = the longer you celebrate.  For example, doctors get a day, nurses have a week and child life gets a month!  But regardless of the dollars on my pay check or the fact that life looks a little different since deciding to be a stay-at-home mom, this profession has made me into a person I never knew I could be.

In honor of this month I want to share some stories from my work.  Some of them are professional mountains I had to climb, some are about patients and colleagues who have influenced me and some are just fond memories.  In order to maintain confidentiality, I will change names and will not give any identifying information.  It is not my place to tell someone's story - I can only share how they have changed my heart.

I hope you enjoy these stories and get a better understanding of the profession.
It all started in California, during H1N1.  I interned at U.C. Davis Medical Center where I learned from some child life power houses, had some great adventures and gained the confidence I needed to become successful.

Happy Child Life Month!