Taking the dark and scary out of Elmhurst Hospital


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A newly designed Starlight Site Care Room that was unveiled on March 3 at Elmhurst Hospital Center hopes to change a common fear that children share about hospital rooms being dark and scary.

The new care room is designed with a park theme that includes colorful trees and kites on the walls, vibrant floor tiles and an inviting feel that will help calm children’s fears, distract them from their pain and engage them in the treatment process. Perhaps the room’s grandest feature is the Nintendo gaming system, which is loaded with over 30 games that appeal to all ages.

“Before, [the renovation] it was beige, sterile and not child-friendly. Now it is a lot less scary when they come into the room. It is a very calming and soothing environment. Most kids walk in and the first thing they say is, ‘cool, does that television work?,’” said Meredith Farrell, child life program coordinator at the hospital.

While in the hospital, many seriously ill children spend the bulk of their time in treatment rooms. These rooms are often intimidating areas in the hospital. Although this is where some of a child’s most difficult, most invasive and most painful experiences occur, the treatment rooms are often overlooked when patient rooms and other areas of hospitals are renovated. Starlight is a foundation that is addressing this issue by renovating treatment rooms in hospitals across the tri-state area.

“With the help of our wonderful partner, the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation, we were able to renovate what was once a dreary area and create a welcoming environment for children to undergo treatments,” said Elaine Siver, executive director of the Starlight Children’s Foundation.

Though no patients were made available for comments during the unveiling of the room, those involved believe there is good reason to be thrilled with how it can help youngsters.

“Our goal is to make the hospital not be a scary place. We want kids to recognize that they come here for healing but it is also a place where they can come, be safe and enjoy themselves,” Farrell said.

“It can make it much easier for children coming for treatment. The games can distract them if something uncomfortable is happening to them,” said Siver.

The $35,000 cost of the new-look room was not hard to come up, according to Siver.

“The hospitals were on board immediately because child life is an important part of the pediatric floor now. It has become very clear how important it is for the children to make the hospital less frightening. They respond better and will follow a regime better because the focus of pain will be taken off,” Siver said.

The funding for the room was provided through a grant by the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation (IICF), which seeks to help communities and enrich lives by combining the collective strengths of the industry to provide grants, volunteer service and leadership. IICF has been supporting Starlight programs and services over the last two years.

“The Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation is pleased to be able to improve the lives of these brave children who have so much to endure,” said Lisa Tepper, chair of the IICF grants committee and regional president for Travelers. “Through the efforts and inspiration of Starlight, this treatment room has been transformed and will cheer these small patients rather than frighten them.”

There are currently nine Starlight Site Care Rooms located at six hospitals across the tri-state area including New York Hospital Queens, which honors the N.Y. Mets. More projects are currently underway, such as one at Jamaica Hospital.