The first Child Life Volunteer at LFHC, Winter worked with Lee Her, the Lao play therapist. During her 1-month stay, she helped establish the first phases of the Child Life program, including implementing a neurodevelopmental screening tool at LFHC, and day-to-day play therapy and education with long-term inpatients at the hospital.
It is amazing to be apart of what is really the beginning phase of this project. The hospital will just be turning 1 next week, so there is a ton of growth and development to be done. I’ve often thought how lucky this hospital is. The staff and families are so fortunate to have leadership that has advocated for a family-centred care program – like child life. I have had no experience developing a program before, all things considered, I’ve really had little experience working in a well-established program at all! But this was my task and I had to figure things out fast. First thing on my to-do list was to spend every free second on the unit with the patients and families and figure out their exact needs because surely they had to have some differences from the families back home in Canada. What I quickly figured out was that the kid’s needs were pretty basic. They just wanted something to do and someone to play with! The family’s needs were similarly simple, they just wanted someone to care for their children.
I’ve had little experience working with a language barrier before, and at times this seemed like a total road block, but then I would succeed in communicating with a patient without needing to speak the same language. I did learn a few words in Lao, mainly colours and numbers thanks to the card game UNO. UNO was a big hit with the older patients. There were many occasions we would rolled a couple of beds and a wheelchair together so a group of patients and staff could play together. I even caught a group of dads playing it together one day!
Over the coming weeks I would develop some pretty strong relationships with four of our long-term patients. All four were admitted for the same diagnosis. Each would require long-term antibiotics for infections, hours of rehab and weeks of potential boredom. These kids would teach me about patience, compassion, resiliency and most of all bravery.