A Special Place for Some Special People
The first thing that you notice about the Pediatric Oncology Department in the Edwards Comprehensive Cancer Center is the dÃ©cor â€” bright, whimsical colors on the walls and floors, pint-sized tables and chairs, a play kitchen and tool bench, even miniature chemotherapy chairs â€” all designed to suit its youngest patients. And according to Melissa Constantino, certified pediatric oncology nurse, the child-friendly environment makes a big difference to the patients and their families.
"The kids absolutely love it," she said. "It's their space and it is designed to be non-threatening. It invites them to use their imaginations, and it takes their time and attention away from their treatment. Some of our little ones have so much fun that they don't want to leave when their appointments are over."
The Pediatric Oncology Department treats children from infancy to adulthood from throughout the Tri-State region and beyond. Some patients may travel two to three hours to receive treatment.
"When a child has cancer, the family first has to understand and accept the fact that their child is seriously ill," Constantino said. "Then they have to find a treatment facility and work out a million little details like taking off from work, coming up with travel expenses and arranging child care for their other children, all while they are experiencing unimaginable stress and worry over their child's illness. It disrupts family life, and it takes its toll on every member of the family."
Community support means a lot to the pediatric oncology program and offers many positive experiences to the patients and their families. The Ronald McDonald House is within easy walking distance and provides a home away from home for some families. Several area churches provide snacks each week for the patients and their families. Student groups from Marshall University host parties and special events and try to make every holiday memorable. Athletes from Marshall University visit several times a year with treats and good wishes. Each December, an anonymous group of local donors asks the pediatric patients what they would like for Christmas and makes sure they get what they asked for, no matter what the cost. The sponsors and volunteers for the West Virginia Hot Dog Festival support pediatric services with the funds they raise at their festival each year.
"The Pediatric Oncology Unit is the cornerstone of the Children's Hospital Project, and it demonstrates the value of tailoring programs for children. The community has generously supported the unit through their donations of time, money and special gifts," Constantino said, "and we couldn't do it without them. Now they are stepping up and donating to the Children's Hospital so that all of our pediatric services will offer sick children the same kind of environment and amenities. All children deserve quality health care close to home, and they should receive it in a warm, welcoming child-friendly environment."