I have been asked quite a bit lately about what my private practice will do. The words ‘Child Life Specialist’ are pretty vague to many of you. When I answer I usually give my elevator speech, which is focused on helping explain my role as a ‘support’ to medical professionals; as well as to pediatric patients prior to, during and post medical procedures. I’m the 'safe person' that uses age-appropriate coping and distraction techniques to decrease anxiety and foster coping during the most stressful times.
The next question is usually “How did you get into that field”?
The best answer I can give is that personal experience led me towards a path I knew was meant to be. In 2001, my husband Ben (former high-school sweetheart) was diagnosed with stage 4 brain cancer, over a period of 10 months he underwent an experimental trial of high-dose chemo and high-dose radiation, both simultaneously performed at Children’s Hospital Colorado.
Throughout this time of many, many, many tests, hospital admissions, and complications, I developed supportive relationships with the Child Life Specialists at Children’s. These unbelievably amazing people helped me turn my anger and grief into advocacy for myself, my husband, and our son who was a toddler at the time.
The child life specialists were available to help prepare us for any new medical equipment, understand the tests and diagnosis’s in words we could understand and most of all help normalize the hospital environment as much as possible. These invaluable resources increased our ability to process and cope with the changes, find sense in what felt like setbacks, and eventually help us build a legacy of remembrance for the grief we would face at the end of Ben’s journey.
Being the primary caregiver of a patient in a Pediatric Oncology Unit a gave me invaluable experience to understand the patient and family perspective. I know what it’s like to try and fall asleep through the beeps of empty infusion pumps, make a chair into a cot, try and soothe my tired baby back to sleep every 3 hours after someone came to take the vitals, write out my questions for the nurse and eagerly wait on the Doctors rounds.
Throughout these several hospitalizations and emergency room encounters, I was given ways to effectively support and familiarize my young child to the routines and rituals of the hospital; including specific ways to prepare my children for future healthcare experiences and medical equipment.
When it became evident treatment was no longer going to help, I was supported in allowing my child to acknowledge death and the dying process in a way a child can understand. Upon Ben’s death, I calculated we had spent more time in a hospital or clinic than I had at home in the prior three years. Whoa! That is a lot of time spent with numerous healthcare workers, doctors, nurses, ED techs, and volunteers.
It was at this time I found myself inadvertently immersed in a field I was passionate and emphatic about. I truly knew the value of the time each person spends with you. I understood that although what was happening to me seemed very unfair, I was given a lesson and a path to a future in Child Life.
Thirteen years ago today on October 1, 2001 Ben took his last breath at age 22. Since that somber day when I had to say goodbye, I let my heart hold the love and the pain until I was able to transform my experiences into ideas for starting my own Private Practice.
Today October 1, 2014 I’m emotional but ever so proud to announce the grand opening of my own Private Child Life Practice ‘Giggling Goat’ In honor of Ben’s journey from this day forward we will keep the laughter going.
My personal mission for Giggling Goat, is to pay it forward through offering services which utilize the’ family- centered care’ model to enhance collaboration between healthcare providers and families.
To learn more about Giggling Goat’s services and how they can assist you in your practice please visit www.GigglingGoat4Kids.com
“Laughter is the best medicine”
Founder and CEO of Giggling Goat Child Life Services