Healthy Living: Program that helps reduce stress and anxiety for kids and families’ hospital experience

Channel 2 Morning Edition (6 a.m.)
Published: Mar. 30, 2021 at 8:21 AM AKDT|Updated: Mar. 30, 2021 at 8:32 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A visit to the hospital can be a stressful or anxious experience and even more so for kids. In this week’s Healthy Living, we learned about a program that’s helping ease some of those fears. One of those families that it helps is Faagao Tufeluani, who goes by Faa, and her 8-year old daughter, Nevaeh.

Rosemary Price is a Certified Child Life Specialist at the Children’s Hospital at Providence in Anchorage.

“Specifically we are trained to utilize that knowledge to help children cope with the stress and the trauma that comes with being in the hospital or having a medical experience,” said Price.

She often meets families right after they learn of a diagnosis and helps them navigate what comes next. In Nevaeh’s case, what was initially a visit to the doctor for a bloody nose, turned out that she had leukemia.

“Big change, big shocker as of right now she’s going through chemotherapy,” said Tufeluani.

Nevaeh’s mom said it’s still an adjustment but the service has been a big help, especially with her other kids.

“It’s been helping my kids who are starting to cope with the fact that they know where I’m going when I’m not at home. It’s for Nevaeh,” she explained.

“No parent should have the language to explain this scary thing to their child or their sibling,” said Price. “And so I’m happy to kind of be able to take that off of their shoulders and give them the tools, the resources and the language to use.”

Price uses games, dolls and other toys to do what’s called medical play.

“Nevaeh loves dolls and so she and I have done a lot of doll play and we’re actually going to kind of do a little bit of doll play around hair loss specifically because Nevaeh’s losing her hair,” said Price.

On any given day, she sees about 10 to 15 patients. The service is free and all families are eligible.

Price said, “The ultimate goal is really that the patient or family doesn’t need me because we’ve developed those coping skills and they are responding really well to their medical experiences.”

But for Nevaeh, there’s no rush because, at this point, the only big decision that needs to be made is one that requires glitter, markers and a creative design.

“We’re just taking it one day at a time and just praying that everything will go well,” said Tufeluani.

Right now, there are 3 child life specialists at Providence Hospital but they are expanding. They cover children’s emergency care, pediatric ICU and day surgery.

You can visit the Providence Hospital website for more information.

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