Hos­pi­tal is never much fun, but it’s not all bad

Shanghai Daily - - METRO - Li Qian

GO­ING to hos­pi­tal can be a trau­matic, es­pe­cially for chil­dren with leukemia. But the city’s chil­dren’s hos­pi­tals are work­ing to make their stays more pleas­ant and this year marks the 20th an­niver­sary of their ef­forts.

China’s Na­tional Health Com­mis­sion re­vealed an an­nual 150,000 in­crease in the num­ber of young leukemia pa­tients at a press con­fer­ence last Oc­to­ber. They need long pe­ri­ods of treat­ment in hos­pi­tal.

A sur­vey by Shang­hai Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal showed that nearly two out of three young leukemia pa­tients had emo­tional prob­lems, mostly trig­gered by anx­i­ety over get­ting left be­hind at school.

To help them out of their so­cial and ed­u­ca­tional iso­la­tion, Xin­hua Hos­pi­tal, Shang­hai Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal and the Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal of Fu­dan Univer­sity launched the Sun­shine House char­ity pro­gram on Chil­dren’s Day in 1998.

It gives young pa­tients ac­cess to lessons and a va­ri­ety of ac­tiv­i­ties, in­clud­ing paint­ing and read­ing. A non-hos­pi­tal en­vi­ron­ment helps make them feel they are still part of nor­mal so­ci­ety, eas­ing their men­tal pres­sures and en­cour­ag­ing speed­ier re­cov­ery.

The pro­gram at Xin­hua Hos­pi­tal didn’t end af­ter its pe­di­atric hema­tol­ogy and on­col­ogy di­vi­sion was trans­ferred to the Shang­hai Chil­dren’s Med­i­cal Cen­ter. Rather, it has grown.

Over 20 years, 4,554 reg­is­tered vol­un­teers have taken part, help­ing more than 220,000 young pa­tients, adding up to a to­tal of 170,000 hours of vol­un­tary work.

“These are shin­ing mo­ments of my life,” Gong Xiaochun said of his 20 years vol­un­teer­ing at Fu­dan hos­pi­tal.

He didn’t just sup­port young pa­tients through their hard times, he has also do­nated 27 liters of blood in 138 dona­tions since 2004 and helped a num­ber of poverty-stricken pa­tients fi­nan­cially.

Niu Jun was one of the pro­gram’s pi­o­neers at Shang­hai Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal. Deeply touched by the young pa­tients, he re­quested a trans­fer from the hos­pi­tal’s lab to its so­cial work de­part­ment 13 years ago.

“They are so strong that they never ut­ter a sound when they re­ceive the ex­tremely painful bone mar­row punc­tures,” said Niu, now head of the hos­pi­tal’s so­cial work de­part­ment.

“We have an obli­ga­tion to help them grow up,” he said. “And we hope to give them qual­ity of life.”

The hos­pi­tal in­vites school teach­ers to give the young pa­tients the reg­u­lar cur­ricu­lum. The chil­dren also go on out­ings if their health al­lows. Among the most pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tions are Shang­hai Dis­ney­land and the Ori­en­tal Pearl TV Tower.

Dong­dong, 31, is one of the hos­pi­tal’s vol­un­teers.

When he was just 3 years old, he was di­ag­nosed with leukemia. “I don’t re­mem­ber much about my ex­pe­ri­ence at the hos­pi­tal nearly 30 years ago. But I re­mem­bered a room where doc­tors and nurses of­ten took me to play games,” he said.

In 2011, the hos­pi­tal in­vited him and other pa­tients who had re­cov­ered to visit.

Since then, he has been a vol­un­teer. “I shared my own ex­pe­ri­ences with pa­tients and their par­ents. Many of them told me that they see hope and it re­ally touched me,” he said.

Shang­hai Chil­dren’s Med­i­cal Cen­ter en­gages pa­tients in games and other fun ac­tiv­i­ties de­signed to cater to their con­di­tions.

“We be­lieve that chil­dren in hos­pi­tal have a need to play like other chil­dren,” said Anita Wei, from the project’s or­ga­nizer BD China.

Vol­un­teers play with chil­dren suf­fer­ing from leukemia at Shang­hai Chil­dren’s Med­i­cal Cen­ter, re­liev­ing their men­tal pain and adding some fun to their stay. — Ti Gong

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