Longmont United Hospital is working to help make the experience of being in the hospital as entertaining as possible for children on its pediatric unit. The hospital unveiled its new Fun Center Oct. 10 and literally let the games begin.
The Starlight Fun Center is a mobile entertainment unit that contains a Nintendo GameCube, a liquid crystal television and a DVD player. The Starlight Children’s Foundation was able to present Longmont United with this new entertainment center through a grant from HealthONE Alliance, a non-profit organization working to improve health care through education, research, grant making, fund raising and a variety of community programs.
"Last year alone, HealthONE Alliance gave away about $2 million to organizations such as Starlight to provide improved health care in a number of ways," said Linda Trenbeath, community relations director for HealthOne Alliance.
"A $3,200 contribution is a big contribution to any institution, and the children will surely enjoy this," said Mitchell C. Carson, president and CEO of the hospital. "We are thrilled to receive this Fun Center for the pediatric patients."
The Fun Center, which can roll right up to the child’s bedside, does more than just curb boredom during a hospital stay. By using the Fun Center, children have an opportunity to relax and temporarily forget their illness, said Gail Prostrollo, executive director of Starlight Children’s Foundation in Colorado, who was on site for the unveiling. With diversion being the prime focus of the program, the Fun Center also has many other benefits, such as combating isolation and depression among children in the hospital.
According to Prostrollo, another benefit of this diversion is a possible reduction in pain medication. "The more distractions that a child has the less pain medication they need," Prostrollo said. "So, not only is it wonderful to relieve their boredom, but it also relieves their pain because they’re just not thinking about it. We’re very grateful to the HealthONE Alliance because they’re the ones that made the funding possible for this."
This year, Starlight has placed a few Fun Centers throughout Colorado and currently is out of the units, but seven more are on order for the coming year.
"Some hospitals also use the Fun Centers in their neurology units to help promote hand/eye coordination. Others use them in their more long term areas, such as dialysis."
The Starlight Children’s Foundation partners with Nintendo to produce these specialized entertainment centers. Nintendo actually stops production of its normal products twice a year to produce these Fun Centers for Starlight, Prostrollo said. Since 1992, more than 3,000 Fun Centers have been placed at more than 1,000 hospitals. The need, however, is growing rapidly. According to Starlight, the ideal number of Fun Centers is one unit for every 11.5 pediatric beds – this would double the number of units currently in use.
In Colorado there currently are 80 Fun Centers in use. "We’re very, very pleased to be able to present this to the hospital," Prostrollo said. "We know it’s going to get a lot of use."
And get a lot of use it did. At the unveiling, Ty Lindsay, 6, and his brother Jake, 3, who were in the hospital, were part of the unveiling. Ty pulled the sheet off and jumped right in by putting in a game, sitting down in a chair and playing – it was almost as if there was no one else in the room, which is the whole point.
The Fun Centers are specifically designed to stand up to a lot of use. They are made to roll from room to room with ease, but also are secure enough to reduce both the risk of injury to the patient as well as damage or theft.
The unit has two compartments with small holes for little arms to reach in and pick games, but not big enough to take anything out. This also helps to make sure all the games stay in one, easily accessible place. According to Prostrollo, Starlight maintains the units as well, so if anything were to go wrong with one of the units or if a game were to break or get stolen, Starlight would fix or replace what was broken or missing.
The Starlight Children’s Foundation is an international non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for seriously ill children and their families. Formed in 1983 with the granting of a single wish for a young cancer patient, the Foundation soon began expanding its services beyond its Wishes program. Working to address the many challenges sick children and their families face, the Foundation now offers many different programs – both in-hospital and outpatient programs and services.
by Jason P. Smith