HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Doctors at Kapiolani Medical Center say a little play can go a long way for children battling life-threatening illnesses. In honor of "Child Life Month", we tagged along for a play date with a young patient to see how specialists make those tough days in the hospital bearable.
Tucker the therapy dog's visit is the highlight of 8 year old Xander Munson's day. Hugs are top of mind, not being in the hospital.
Xander is back for a second round of chemotherapy, after his brain tumor returned, but he takes it all in stride. He says, "They just told me and I'm like oh whatever."
His doctor Darryl Glaser says, "Recently we found it came back again so he has to start from scratch, chemotherapy treatment."
Instead of stressing about chemotherapy, Xander looks forward to crafts, like the dream catcher he made with his mom. "It's supposed to catch your bad dreams so you only have good dreams, not negative dreams" he explains.
Xander keeps his dream catcher with him as he goes to the playroom for a play date.
"Want to practice giving him a poke on his poke spot" asks Child Life Specialist Ashley Sutherland, using a teddy bear as teaching tool. She teaches play with purpose to make tough treatments like chemo less intimidating for young patients.
Like talking about leukemia cells. She describes to Xander that "those people need to come to the hospital to get their blood factories clean."
Doctors say the playroom plays a huge part in the healing process. According to Dr. Glaser, "We give them all these really strong chemo treatments that would knock out an adult and we see them rush off to get to the playroom and play."
Child Psychologist Dr. Wendi Hirsch sees the difference. "The emotional health is just as important as the child's physical health and that's what the child life specialists do everyday."
Kapiolani has two Child Life Specialists paid for through donations. They say they're doing their job if children don't mind being at the hospital because of the escape of the playroom.