Caring for injured kids always makes me think of my own children. I relate to what must be going on in the parents’ minds, their worries, and their greatest fears.
I manage many children in my practice, injuries ranging from monkey bar mishaps to terrible things like motor vehicle accidents. Children are far easier to connect with than adults. They look up at me, wide-eyed. I can almost read their minds. “Who’s that giant dressed up like a doctor? Where’s the beanstalk? I smile at them. They smile back. Instant connection.
There’s only one way to talk to kids – with honesty. That doesn’t mean I tell them all the facts about their case, the risks of surgery, the possible outcomes. That’s for the adults to hear, in all it’s frightening detail. Honesty means that if something’s going to hurt, the kid should know it, no surprises. And if it’s not going to hurt because they’ll be sound asleep, they need to trust me and know it’s true, and that we’re in it together. It’s my job to allay their fears of the unknown by making it known, to whatever degree they can understand.
Something wonderful happens when children are no longer afraid. They become really positive and join me in the process. We become a team. Once they see it’s all coming together and they’ll be good as new, they participate in their recoveries.
Kids rarely need physical therapy . . . their therapy is just getting out and doing what kids do. Amazing to watch. They’re virtually indestructible. They amaze me with their resilience and positivity. And they all have one thing in common . . . magical smiles. No matter how many years I do this work, I’ll always be moved by the smiles.
Many innovative programs arise from the world of art. Here are a few that just might inspire you to volunteer your time and talent.
To all you magicians out there, check out this fantastic organization. Volunteer magicians use magic and humor not only to entertain, but to encourage kids to interact, to them laugh, and to forget about their illness for a while. They teach kids magic tricks to amaze their family, friends, doctors, and nurses, to share a sense of wonder. I can’t think of anything that would be more fun and gratifying. Here’s the link.
Music is something that we are working hard to integrate for the children on inpatient units. As a musician myself, I know about the healing power of music. I play the blues, music that sings of hard times and pain, and in so doing, lifts the spirit and pumps the rhythms of life and hope through the bloodstream. Prepared to be uplifted. Check out this site:
All forms of music have a healing effect, from classical to punk, and music therapists have harnessed that power to help the suffering. Throughout history, musicians have been called on to sooth the sick. Look at the work done by this wonderful organization.
Art Therapy has a similar effect harmonizing effect, with the added benfit of providing valuable information to health care workers. Children express themselves through art, giving insight to therapists, a snapshot of a child’s emotional state, allowing communication between caretaker and child on a very deep level.
There are many ways to get a child to feel better, and it is the artists of our world who have come up with some of the most powerful methods. Perhaps that is because artists, whatever their medium, tap into the place in the soul that never loses its sense of wonder or the child-like appreciation of all that is beautiful and pure.
As Albert Einstein said, “The pursuit of truth and beauty is a sphere of activity in which we are permitted to remain children all our lives.”
Dr. Dan Ivankovich (@ReverendDoctorD)