Former Emerson Hospital Pediatric Patient Gives Back to Other Kids
During her freshman year of high school in 2010, Lauren Leedberg of Chelmsford suddenly fell ill and had to be admitted to Emerson Hospital’s pediatric unit. Her physical pain and worry were only worsened by her intense fear of hospitals.
“I was in the hospital for a week while they ran all sorts of tests,” recalled 17-year-old Lauren, now a junior at Chelmsford High School. “I didn’t know what was going on, and I was upset about missing classes and everything back home. It wasn’t a good time.”
During her week-long hospitalization, Lauren welcomed a visit from child life specialist Vicky Hopley, who sat and talked with her and offered to share the hospital’s portable DVD player and collection of movies. Even more than the “chick flicks” she requested, Lauren said she enjoyed the escape from “just sitting there, wondering what was going on.”
“Unless you’ve experienced it, you don’t know how big an impact it is to be able to make a decision, even one so simple as what movie to watch, when the rest of your life is in chaos,” Lauren added, noting that she still keeps the teddy bear she received from Vicky on her bed at home. “It was the highlight of my week.”
In an effort to pay her appreciation forward, Lauren is now volunteering with Emerson’s pediatric intervention team to categorize, update and add to the hospital’s collection of movies, portable DVD players and video games. The project is for her Girl Scout Gold Award, which represents the highest achievement in Girl Scouting. Lauren has been a member of Troop 60988 in Chelmsford since she was in kindergarten.
At Chelmsford High School, Lauren founded the Pediatric Pals Club and joined her fellow student volunteers in collecting approximately 50 gently used PG and PG-13 DVDs, plus three iPod Touches and several PlayStation 2 and Wii games. The group has cataloged, cleaned and tested the hospital’s existing inventory of approximately 150 DVDs. In addition, Lauren has purchased three portable DVD players to date, using a portion of the $1,000 collected from her troop’s fundraising events over the past three years, so more children may enjoy the movies hospital-wide.
Lauren said it makes her feel good to know her efforts will continue to help hospitalized children through the Pediatric Pals Club after she graduates. Before that time, however, she plans to create a video about Emerson’s child life specialists for her school’s career center to raise awareness of the field among her fellow students.
Kay Liebmann, nurse coordinator of Emerson’s pediatric intervention team, praised Lauren as a “lovely young woman who has touched the lives of many children already.” In fact, she said movies are used therapeutically as a distraction for young patients undergoing procedures, as well as in their rooms when they are feeling better.
“Children giving back to children is the most wonderful gift,” she said.
Emerson’s pediatric intervention team is a multidisciplinary group that consists of two child life specialists, a child and adolescent psychiatric nurse and a consulting child psychiatrist. The team recognizes the unique psychosocial needs of hospitalized children and their families, providing services based on the emotional and developmental needs of children from infancy to young adulthood. Through careful preparation and continuing support, the team aims to minimize a child’s anxiety in the health care environment and promote opportunities for growth and mastery of the hospital experience. For more information, visit www.emersonhospital.org.
Emerson Hospital is a multi-site health system headquartered in Concord, Mass., with additional facilities in Sudbury, Groton and Westford. The 179-bed hospital provides advanced medical services to more than 300,000 individuals in 25 towns. To learn more, visit www.emersonhospital.org.