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Patients receive personalized room makeovers at USA Health Children's & Women's Hospital

Patients receive personalized room makeovers at USA Health Children's & Women's Hospital

Once Upon a Room was created to enrich the lives of hospitalized infants, children and teens who are battling serious illnesses. The program provides personalized hospital room makeovers, among other projects.

Published Mar 14th, 2024

By Casandra Andrews

With a goal of bringing joy to children and their caregivers, a team with the Los Angeles-based group Once Upon a Room surprised pediatric patients in Mobile on Friday, March 8, with room makeovers at USA Health Children's & Women's Hospital.

Volunteers with the not-for-profit agency, which recently launched its first Alabama chapter on the Gulf Coast, brought in new blankets, pillows, banners, games, posters, and toys for patients. Organizers said Children's & Women's is the first hospital in Alabama to take part in the surprise makeover program.

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As one 10-year-old patient was shown his newly decorated space, volunteers sang a college fight song, shook pompoms, and cheered. Then, they welcomed him inside.

"This is the best day ever," the little boy said, grinning. As he scanned the room, he noticed football posters, wall decals, and a soft new blanket. His mom stood nearby, smiling, and quietly wiping away tears.

The room transformations came together through a partnership with the Mapp Child and Family Life Program. USA Health’s child life specialists provide support, therapeutic play, and other activities for pediatric patients receiving hospital and emergency care. They strive to create a safe, supportive environment for children, their families, and caregivers as they manage the stress of a hospital visit.

“When we were approached about this opportunity, we knew it would be something wonderful for our patients and their families,” said Kim Thompson-Yates, who leads the child life program at Children’s & Women’s Hospital. “Seeing the sheer surprise and happiness on the kids' faces today was overwhelming in a good way.”

The idea to transform patient rooms came from a former nurse who worked in the hospital’s pediatric intensive care unit (PICU). Current nurse Hilary Seay, who serves in the PICU at Children’s & Women’s, visited her former colleague in Las Vegas and took part in a room makeover at a Nevada hospital with her friend. After that positive experience, Seay knew she had to bring the initiative back to the Alabama Gulf Coast. The Mobile Chapter of Once Upon a Room is coordinated by Seay and Kristin Roberts, CPA, assistant vice president of finance and administration for the University of South Alabama.

Once Upon a Room was created to enrich the lives of hospitalized infants, children and teens who are fighting serious illnesses and long-term health issues, organizers said. At nearly two dozen locations around the U.S., volunteers work with hospital child life staff members to create a design for each room based on a child’s likes and needs.

During the initial visit on March 8 in Mobile, one teen girl saw her hospital room transformed with garlands of cute puppy faces, a larger-than-life French bulldog light, new bedding, decals, and pillows, all with a canine-focused theme that made her cover her eyes with her hands and squeal when she saw it. In a room down the hall, another makeover happened in more hushed tones as volunteers quietly placed stuffed trucks and pillows around a sleeping 3-year-old.

All items used in the room makeovers are designed to be packed back inside a large bag, so patients can take home the decorations as they continue their recovery. Plans call for local volunteers with Once Upon a Room to continue decorating pediatric hospital rooms at Children’s & Women’s on a regular basis.

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