Child Life & Paying It Forward

(The phrase “pay it forward,” according to Wikipedia…………, “is used to describe the concept of asking that a good turn be repaid by having it done to others instead.”)

If my calculations are right…… Cannon has been in the hospital for 3 one week stints, 4 outpatient procedures, 2 additional E.R. visits, and 1 surgery this year so far.  With another hospital stay to come next week.  That is a decent amount of time in the hospital for a 4 year old in just 5 months.    There is a division of our hospital and any other Children’s Hospital I have ever heard of called the Child Life Department.  What would we do without the Child Life Department?  I do not want to ever find out!  They are a spectacular group of people whose sole purpose in existence is to make the unfortunate event of a hospital experience more bearable for the kiddos.   

A description of Child Life, per the Child Life Council (http://www.childlife.org), is that………

“Child life specialists are trained professionals with expertise in helping children and their families overcome life’s most challenging events.  Armed with a strong background in child development and family systems, child life specialists promote effective coping through play, preparation, education, and self-expression activities. They provide emotional support for families, and encourage optimum development of children facing a broad range of challenging experiences, particularly those related to healthcare and hospitalization. Because they understand that a child’s wellbeing depends on the support of the family, child life specialists provide information, support and guidance to parents, siblings, and other family members. They also play a vital role in educating caregivers, administrators, and the general public about the needs of children under stress.”

I have given examples previously of some of the things that these people have done for Cannon, personally,…..but I feel compelled to tell you again and a little more.  They have not only been present for all of his procedures to lend moral support to Cannon and to us but also to use toys, books, games, and music to help distract him from the procedure itself.  They made posters of his beloved letters for him to look at when his hands were restrained and he couldn’t play with toys.  Their playrooms are full of color, toys, games, books, computers, t.v.’s, crafts, and volunteers ready to play!  And if you are too sick to come to the playroom, they bring the fun to you!  They will watch the kiddo so the parent can take a quick break.  They provide a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen, and/or a hug as needed.  They even bring activity packs for the siblings. They will explain procedures to parents and kids and sometimes even show the kids what will happen using a doll.  And if you still don’t understand….they will get you someone who can.  They even act as an extra advocate to help explain Cannon’s particular special needs to healthcare providers.  Some of the events we have been able to be a part of are riding a miniature horse, visiting with a singing Ronald McDonald, playing with therapy dogs, and listening to harpists. We’ve also heard of special character visitors during holidays (ex: Santa at Christmas) and their very own prom!  It takes creativity, heart, intelligence, and generosity to do this job.  And the Child Life Department at our hospital has that, for sure!

When I was in high school, I actually thought I wanted to be a Child Life Specialist.  I volunteered for a couple of years at my local Children’s Hospital when I was in high school and absolutely loved it!  So, I wrote the Child Life Council and got lots of info.  Researched colleges that had a Child Life Degree and did a lot of pondering over the idea.   The conclusion I came to after losing a couple of patients that I had grown close to, was that I wasn’t sure I could handle the emotional side of the job.  Also, the colleges that had a degree program for Child Life, at the time, were much farther from home than I wanted to go.  So, I went down a different road. But I think that it’s interesting that I have been led back to a life that is surrounded by Child Life. Who knows what the future will hold?

Anyways…. I have been so grateful to our local Children’s Hospital and their Child Life Department for the exceptional care that they have given Cannon.  I wanted to give back.  So, I spoke with the nurses and they mentioned that besides volunteering (which is not really an option for me with Cannon’s intense therapy schedule and the distance we live from the hospital) there was the option of donating toys, books, and games to the Child Life Department.  Knowing the excess that lives in my home….that was easy!  So, I gathered up some loot and put out 2 Facebook updates asking friends to do the same.  Several friends took me up on it and I ended up with a nice trunk full with very little effort.  We are hoping to move soon and I am looking forward to further editing through our toy collection for more donations.  I also plan on doing this periodically throughout the year.  Why not?!  Everyone wins!  You have a smaller chance of tripping over excess toys in your home and a kiddo forced to be in the hospital gets some joy for a few moments.

I write this not to gain praise but to encourage you to do the same!  It is so easy!  If you have kids, then you most likely have more toys than you need or that they have grown out of.  Consider donating what they no longer play with.  In these tough economic times, I bet we all still wish we could give to good causes.  And we may not be able to do so financially.  So, what is better than giving what we already have been blessed with and don’t necessarily need anymore for the good of others.  Another option is that if you see a great sale at the store or good deal on gently used toys at a yard sale….think about picking them up for the kiddos in the hospital.  Generally, hospitals will take anything except stuffed animals.  And some hospitals even take clothes.  Ours just switched their policy to only accepting brand new clothes so check before you show up with a donation.  And if you have time……..VOLUNTEER!  Doing so will provide you with an amazing experience……. A great feeling inside and the knowledge that you answered God’s call to love one another and give cheerfully to others.  All while touching lives and hearts and giving a dose of happiness to children having a tough time.  I really hope and pray everyone who reads this will put some thought into this.  You never know when someone you love may need to be in the hospital and may need the services I speak of.  I am so grateful for the loving care that has been given to my precious son and am thankful for the opportunity to pay it forward.   God bless you friends!

I leave you with a couple of verses on giving.  My last ditch effort to give you a nudge.  😉

Romans 12:13…..”Share with God’s people who are in need.  Practice hospitality.”

Acts 20:35……”….we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said:  ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ “

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