After the first day at the rehabilitation center I was left with an overwhelming feeling of homeyness. When children must stay at the hospital for extended periods of time it’s important that they feel a sense of comfort in their setting. Our first site provided the children with this in a way that I cannot even describe…but will try.
The hallways are lined with paintings made by the children and handmade lanterns are hung across the ceilings. The wheelchairs the kids use are lined with different colored cushions and boxes are attached to the foot pieces so they have more of a base to stretch their feet out on. Fabric belts like those you would find on a robe are what hold the children into their seats. During lunchtime all of the kids gather in the communal room to eat lunch together as if they are family members sitting around a dinner table. Everything feels organic. Nothing seems untouchable, breakable, or off limits. Kids are allowed to freely wheel themselves throughout the facility and they take full advantage by engaging in wheelchair races at every chance they get.
We were apologized to multiple times about how old the facility was and how we may like the larger children’s hospital better because they have more updated equipment and a newer facility but that’s what I liked and respected about this place. If it were like the type of facility I’m used to working in–very sterile, plastic, modern—then the children may not open up and build familial connections the same way they do here. I like the old walls and the mixed pillows and the cardboard boxes. I like the homemade toys and the cozy rooms. It just works.
And to end the day by having doctors and nurses come in after a squirt gun fight outside with the kids, soaking wet, and watching them blow dry themselves off so that they are able to finish their shift-that is what this place is all about. It feels like home to me. And when you have that, who needs fancy equipment and the latest toys?
The smiles on the children’s faces tell me all I need to know.