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Being in the hospital can be challenging, and during the COVID-19 pandemic Packard Children’s patient families are facing new difficulties. To adhere to social distancing practices as well as county and state health policies, we had to be more creative in the ways we provide care and connect to patients and their families. We are more grateful than ever for our amazing Child Life and Creative Arts team, who have risen to the challenge.

When 12-year-old Denielle arrived at Packard Children’s in late February to receive treatment for a cancer recurrence, it was her child life specialist Holley who was there to greet her and help her get through difficult experiences, including COVID-19 testing.

“Holley did a small dance with light sticks in the hallway for me,” recalls Denielle, who received care in our Bass Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Diseases on the fifth floor of the hospital. “It really helped distract me from the pain. Even if she looked ridiculous on the other side of the door, it was really nice how she distracted me. The COVID tests were really uncomfortable and she helped take my mind off of it. The process went by faster.”

COVID-19 health protocols meant that the playrooms had to close. In addition, the Hospital School teachers, who work for the Palo Alto Unified School District, adapted to online lessons.  Even Donnie—our beloved yellow Labrador—and her Packard Paws pet therapy colleagues had to stop their bedside visits.

What hasn’t changed is our mission to care for the whole child—and our Child Life team is finding new, safe, and creative ways to keep kids engaged and prevent feelings of isolation. These efforts include:

  • Expanding programming through Sophie’s Place Broadcast Studio. Children can catch National Geographic content from the Hospital School staff, play Bingo, watch their favorite neurosurgeon take a blind taste-test, or participate in a virtual book club with other patients
  • Providing families with iPads to interact with their care team
  • Continuing to support children with age-appropriate and thoughtful one-on-one interactions through diagnosis, treatment, hospitalization, and beyond
  • Fostering creativity, coping, and self-expression through art and music therapy
  • Providing patients with art supplies that they can use at the bedside
  • Supplying toys for kids to enjoy and keep, allowing them to still play in their rooms while the shared playrooms are closed

Even as COVID-19 has led to changes in her daily interactions with her care team and fellow patients, Denielle maintains her positivity and says her favorite activities include music therapy—she has learned how to play the ukulele!—and the Broadcast Studio.

“During the live shows, you can play Bingo or call in; it is really cool,” says Denielle. “Even though you are not in direct contact with other patients, you can still interact with them and have fun. It connects all of us together.”

Donors like you can make hospital stays a little easier for kids. Your donation will fund toys, arts and crafts supplies, activity kits, and other resources to promote patient and family well-being during this unprecedented time.

Your support will ensure that kids like Denielle can still be kids, even when hospitalized. Thank you!

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