As a child life specialist, I’ve seen countless examples of play transforming a child’s mood in the hospital environment. I remember well the day when Steven lay curled in a ball beneath the covers in his hospital bed, his caffe latte bald head hiding beneath the sheets. He had not showed up in the playroom that afternoon, which was unusual. This was one of those kids who waited eagerly outside the door each day for the playroom to open and was often the last to skate his IV pole back to his room at the end of the day. I had yet to see Steven without a smile on his round, open face. He was a content child with a quiet maturity that went well beyond his seven years. He took his medical treatment in stride and enjoyed the company of his brother and sisters, as well as just about every activity the playroom had to offer.
But not this day. It was mid-afternoon and we had yet to see a glimpse of Steven. His mother stopped by and informed me that Steven had an infection in his Broviak catheter and that it would have to be surgically removed.