March is National Child Life Month, which honors those in the Child Life profession. It’s the perfect opportunity to continue our spotlight on Jeanine Clapsaddle. Jeanine is a Child Life specialist from Children’s who is in India for two months to help set up Child Life services at Manipal Hospital.
Jeanine’s trip is in partnership with the Priyanka Foundation, which was established to fulfill the dying wish of a former Children’s patient who wanted other kids around the world to get the same care she received. Jeanine is documenting her experiences through this blog series.
This is the third report from her trip:
The two students I am training here have been working in the hospital for nearly a year, providing patients with opportunities for normative play. They have a well-established rapport with patients and families who identify them by that all too familiar title; the play lady. Patients, parents and staff alike have all identified the immense impact these women and their toys have had on the healthcare experience.
On my first day at Manipal, I met a nearly 4 year old boy named Nischit, who is four months into treatment for leukemia. During the initial portion of his visit to the outpatient clinic for labs, and chemotherapy, he clung to his mother, was tearful and apprehensive. He cried through his port accessing, labs and related cares.
Although he was slow to warm up to the toys and chose items that were intended for a much younger child, he was able to quietly engage in play after some time. This was a consistent response for Nischit during subsequent sessions despite attempts to engage him in distraction during his port accessing.
When the new toys I had sent from the U.S. arrived, I had the Child Life Practitioner working with him put a play doctor kit among the toys that he was able to choose from. Although he responded to the cares as he had in the past, Nischit was curious about the medical play kit, and opted to engage in play sooner than he had previously.
Over the next several visits to the hospital, Nischit became captivated by the doctor kit. He was quickly able to develop mastery of the medical toys, generalize the toys to his own experience, compare the play equipment with the real equipment, and not only model how the equipment works, but his role in the process. He has successfully ‘treated’ his mother, the stuffed duck that tags along with the medical kit, and all the staff that care for him.
When I come to observe the sessions with Nischit now, he actively engages in distraction for his port accessing and is eager to play when the ‘work’ is over. His mood is more stable. He has become quite talkative and he displays better resilience to unexpected stressors, such as hospital admission due to fever.
Today he was able to tell the student, “I come for chee-bee-chee (CBC) test.” In all honesty, seeing this smiling face with cheeks puffy from steroids try and spit out CBC test, particularly knowing how much he struggled with his cares just a short time ago, is almost too much for me.
Nischit will always stand out as a prime example of why I became a Child Life Specialist and why I came to India. Surviving and thriving can be part of the same experience, and I believe the aim of Child Life is to diminish the gap that exists between them.
The young girl, for whom the Priyanka Foundation is named, knew this. She saw it first hand when she visited India. Children were surviving, certainly. Thriving throughout their treatment was less likely.
I continue to feel incredibly honored to be living Priyanka’s vision and helping to spread the work of Child Life through this teaching endeavor.
Child Life Specialist
Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota