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1 year of JPCH: Child Life Zone helping kids escape the stress of the hospital

A first of its kind space in Canada designed specifically for kids has made a big impact in its first year at Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital.

The Child Life Zone, located on the main floor, is a space to offer support and education for young patients and their families to help reduce stress and anxiety associated with hospital stays, tests, and procedures.

For 16-year-old Avery, the Child Life Zone and its programming made all the difference during the 27 days she spent at Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital this summer.

Avery in the Child Life Zone

When Avery was 12, she was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. Avery’s family is from the small village of Carievale in the southeast corner of Saskatchewan. At the time of her diagnosis, the closest pediatric gastroenterologist was Winnipeg, but when a specialist arrived in Saskatoon in 2017, Avery’s family decided to make the five and a half hour trek for care. That same year Avery started requiring blood transfusions, and then by October 2018 she was needing them almost every two to four days. That’s when the family made the difficult decision for Avery to have her colon removed and an ostomy in order to save her life in November 2018.

Avery using a robot to explore the Zone from her hospital room

During Avery’s most recent hospitalization due to complications from colitis, the Child Life Zone was the perfect escape for her.

“We were treated with so much care and kindness and the Zone gave Avery so many opportunities to escape her disease, even if just for an hour,” said Angela, Avery’s mom.

Avery kept busy with different kinds of programming from planting succulents to playing giant Jenga. She also enjoyed painting, colouring, playing music, baking, driving the remote-controlled robots and spending time in the Family Theatre.

“As Avery’s parent, the Zone meant so much to me as I got to see my child’s sadness fade away and the excitement come to her eyes when someone from the team walked into her room and either spent time with her in her room or took her down to the Zone. It was like an entirely different world for her,” explained Angela.

The Child Life Zone was created through a partnership between Garth Brooks’ Teammates for Kids Foundation and Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital Foundation. The Mosaic Company also donated $3 million for long-term programming for the Zone. The 2,800 square foot space joins 11 other Teammates for Kids Child Life Zones across North America and is the first of its kind in Canada.

The Zone provides a space for patients to escape their medical environment and participate in activities they may be missing out on while in hospital. The Child Life program includes the expertise of Certified Child Life Specialists, Recreation Therapists and a Music Therapist.

Dominique Rust

Certified Child Life Specialists facilitate medical play, as an opportunity for patients to get their hands on real medical equipment and supplies they may see during procedures. Together, the specialists and young patients work through each step of the procedure and what supplies will be used. The patient can hold the items, ask questions and practice. Then when it is time for the procedure, the children already have an idea of what to expect and anxiety will be decreased, resulting in increased confidence.

“Play is the universal language of children. When children play, they express their emotions and feelings, working through what has happened to them in the past or prepare for how they will react in the future. Play is a normal part of development and normalizing the hospital environment to include play is paramount to the recovery process,” said Dominique Rust, Child Life Program Manager at Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital.

You can help keep programs like Child Life moving forward by supporting Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital Foundation today.

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