Fresh look at kids’ health

Betsy Myatt (l.-r.) of Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation, Michelle Hall of Starlite, City Councilman Daniel Dromm, Meredith Farrell of Elmhurst Hospital Center, Executive Director of Elmhurst Hospital Chris Constantino and Yoselin Genao, chief of staff for City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras, gather in the hospital's new Starlight Site, a pediatric treatment room made more kid-friendly. Photo by Rebecca Henely
By Rebecca Henely

For sick children, the hospital and the treatments it administers can be frightening and painful, but Elmhurst Hospital Center and its partners say its new treatment room, or Starlight Site, is the spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down.

“Now it’s a lot less scary to come into this room,” said Meredith Farrell, child life program coordinator at Elmhurst.

At the hospital at 79-01 Broadway, administrators and representatives from the Starlight Children’s Foundation and the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation last Thursday unveiled the new room where children in the pediatric wing will receive their treatments.

The treatment room is a place where children receive procedures, such as shots, so they do not have to be taken at their bedside. Once a blank and beige place, Elmhurst’s revamped room features bright decor with pictures of trees and kites, as well as a widescreen TV, a DVD player and a Nintendo Wii console with 30 games for kids to play with while waiting for or receiving treatments.

“It provides them with happiness, which is actually very important in their recovery,” said Betsy Myatt, executive director of the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation a grant-making program funded by the insurance industry.

The room was created by the Starlight Children’s Foundation’s New York, New Jersey and Connecticut chapter, which Farrell said has had a partnership with Elmhurst for more than a decade. The foundation provides many fun things for Elmhurst’s child patients, from entertainers such as magicians and clowns to a program where children work with a graduate student from New York University who helps them write about how they are feeling. The Starlight Site, which opened in December, usually services five to 15 of the 22 children in the pediatric wing a day, Farrell said.

The foundation has created nine of these revamped rooms across the tri-state area, said Elaine Siver, executive director of the local branch. The closest is in Flushing’s New York Hospital Queens, which has a decor based on the New York Mets. Elmhurst’s room is a variation of the Starlight Site’s park theme.

Siver said the advantage of a colorful site with toys is that it makes kids more comfortable and more compliant in receiving treatment.

“Starlight is really about the spiritual healing of children,” she said.

The room, which cost thousands of dollars, was paid for by the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation. Myatt said the foundation gave a $100,000 grant in 2010 to Starlight Children’s Foundation for many of its programs, including the Starlight Sites, which make up the largest section of the grant.

“They do things for the children that insurance can’t possibly cover,” Myatt said.

Chris Constantino, chief operating officer at Elmhurst, said the partnership with Starlight has been a boon given the current funding cuts to health care expected in the 2011 budget.

“The more we can partner with groups like Starlight and the insurance industries they represent, the more services we can bring to Elmhurst Hospital,” Constantino said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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