Childhood Cancer

Hospital rooms are sometimes painted drab colors, and most rooms don’t have particularly scenic views. You (and your child if he is well enough) can do a lot to liven up a dull hospital room. If your child’s hospital visit will be brief, a few touches of home (e.g., a bright pillowcase, a favorite stuffed animal or toy) probably will suffice. If the visit will be longer, making the room more familiar helps everyone. You can:

• Cover the walls with big, bright posters.

• Tape cards on the walls, hang them from strings like a mobile, or arrange them on the windowsills.

• Put up pictures of the child engaged in her favorite activities. Add photos of family members, friends, and pets.

• Place a favorite stuffed animal, blanket, or quilt on the bed. This can provide great comfort, especially for younger children. But make sure your linens or animals are not accidentally carted away with the soiled linens.

• Make the room smell good with potpourri or aromatherapy oils that your child likes.

• Bring a guest book for each visitor and member of the medical staff to sign. Or put up a sign-in poster for doctors and nurses, who must sign in before they begin examinations or take vital signs. Some children ask staff members to outline their hands on a poster and write inside the hand print.

• Bring music (e.g., on an iPod®, phone, or portable stereo) to block out hospital noise and help everyone relax.

• If there isn’t an in-room DVD player, check to see if you can sign one out from the hospital’s media library, or bring a laptop. You can watch a favorite funny movie or TV show because belly laughs help.

• Bring clothes from home. Most hospitals provide brightly colored smocks for young patients, but many children and teens prefer to wear their own clothing. This can pose a laundry problem, so check to see if the floor has washers available for families.

• Bring in age-appropriate games, puzzles, books, and things that make kids laugh (e.g., joke books or Silly String®).

The first thing we did was put up a poster of the Little Engine that Could saying, “I think I can. I think I can.” Then we covered every square inch of the walls of 3-year-old Meagan’s room with colorful posters. We tried to use ones with depth so it would seem like the room was larger. We hung up all of her cards from her preschool friends. Balloons covered the ceiling. The room was colorful and full.

Taking a tour of the floor as soon as you get there really helps. During the tour, you’ll be able to find out if a microwave and refrigerator are available, what the sleeping arrangements for parents are, and where you shower. Try to get a hospital handbook if one is available. These booklets often include information on billing, parking, discounts, and other helpful tips.