So, what next? How about another book

It was just about a year ago when I was getting all kinds of excited because the book I’d been working on and sweating over and swearing at for the past year or two was finally at the printer and was turning into, well, turning into a real book. Not a figment of my imagination.

In a way, it seems like yesterday. I can still smell the paper and ink at the Walsworth printing plant in Marceline, Mo. (Of course, I can still smell the ink and paper of my dad’s newspaper office, too, and he’s been dead for decades. So maybe this says something about me and not the stench of ink and paper and the passage of time.)

So on the one hand, it was just yesterday, and yet on the other it seems long ago that my hopes and dreams of a history book for Children’s Mercy turned into a reality. We’ve sold thousands of copies (and still have plenty left!) I’ve signed dozens of books (and would gladly sign more). I’ve given dozens of talks (and would gladly give more.)

And you tell me it’s only been a year?

Sometimes, I admit, I get a little bored with “For All Children Everywhere.” Not in the this-is-a-boring-book sort of way. Maybe its more that I’m over that excitement of “Wow, look, I wrote a book!” I know it so well. The stories are etched in my mind. I have a beat-up copy at my desk that I refer to at least once a day. I double-check dates and spellings of names. I look for photos.

Yes, that’s right: I find it easier to look in the hard-copy book instead of those fancy-schmancy “digital asset management” (or DAM) tools. Once I know where to find something in the book, it’s easier for me to locate an electronic file if I need to email it or print it for another use. (Side note: I do firmly believe some things were better back in the good ol’ days of printed media, vinyl record albums, wired telephones and limited menus at McDonald’s.)

One of the special things about the book, of course, is that it’s designed to last a long time. It’s not going out of style or out of date anytime soon. Facts are facts and history is history (despite some people’s desire to offer “alternatives” to both.) But new people are being introduced to the story of Children’s Mercy for the first time nearly every day and that keeps the story and the book vital and alive.

I often get calls or emails from people wanting help with a piece of our history. For instance, someone from St. Louis recently got in touch with me because she is trying to restore a piece of stained glass that came from, supposedly, the house that served as the first official home of Children’s Mercy Hospital at 404 Highland Avenue from 1903 to 1917. I told her what I knew, including the name of the original owner and the names of  other Kansas City history buffs who might help. She now knows more about Children’s Mercy and its commitment to children and community. Who knows where this conversation will eventually lead.

So it’s not that I’m bored with our story now that the book is nearing its first birthday. In fact, there is still a ton of work to do in the Archives: organizing our historical files, collecting oral histories as more and more of our Baby Boomer workforce retires and sorting boxes and boxes of photos that seems to appear out of nowhere. Who knows what kinds of artifacts and scrapbooks and other goodies are lurking behind closet doors or in attics around the city. A nurse told me she has a desk that was built by one of our founders and used in the hospital on Independence Avenue. The nurse uses it as a table in her living room. I’m almost afraid to start looking and asking for fear of what I’ll find and have nowhere to keep or display it.

Still, we need to continue to collect and preserve and make available the assets of this incredible story that has transformed children, families, Kansas City and the world.

OK, so what else to do? What’s next?

Well, even before “For All Children Everywhere” was off the presses last summer, we began to talk about that. Even before the ink was dry, I was getting a sense of “what-have-you-done-for-me-lately?” Not in a bad way, mind you. More in a, “boy-you-can’t-rest-on-your-laurels” sort of way. (I’m not the resting laurels type, anyway.)

So we talked. I went to the table with an open mind and ideas of stories that didn’t make it into the first book or stories that deserve a little more telling. Maybe stories that haven’t ended yet or stories that are just beginning.

And so, after lots of talking and reading and researching and then some more talking, we made a decision: there will be at least one more book.

This one will focus on a history and evolution of “psycho-social care,” that special care we practice here beyond traditional medicine, care that encompasses the whole child — body, mind and spirit. It embraces the whole family and if offers hope for healthy communities.

Another book? Yep. Another book!

Amid the fear and panic of the work I was committing to, I found myself energized with this new mission. While there is a history component to this new book, it’s much harder to find a beginning and an ending. There are lots of different angles to this story. And while that was true for the first book, too, I knew where it was headed: from the founding of Children’s Mercy to the present day.

This time, I’m not so sure.

But a wise person once said it’s the journey, not the destination that’s important. In that case, climb aboard and strap in. We’re embarking on a journey. If it’s anything like the last one, there will be twists and turns and laughter and tears.

And in the end … oh heck, I can’t see the future. Who knows? Maybe it will never end.

Stay tuned.

 

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Some things just bear repeating, again

When I was talking with some folks about medical research the other day, the topic turned how we get “real people,” those outside of health care and science, interested. That is, interested enough that they might want to support the work.

And we weren’t just talking about money, although money is always nice. (Someone

1960s_StanleyHellersteinLab_Nurse&LabCoat NoID LaBSC 452
Research labs, like these from the 1960s, have long been a part of Children’s Mercy.

once told me as I wrestled with a wedding gift for some distant relatives, “Nobody returns cash.”) We were talking about the kind of support that comes from simply acknowledging that research is a critical component of providing the best possible medical care.

 

Just like we need doctors and nurses in our clinics and at the bedside. (Clinical care.)

Just like we need to train the next generation of those healers. (Education.)

We need research.

It’s a three-legged stool. And as much as we work to ensure the three are equal and integrated and work in concert so the stool stands up, in the triage of available resources, research seems to be the last one considered.

Maybe that’s because the promise of research is hard to see. People like to know what’s 1917 Januarythe end game. That’s hard with research. But we persist because we know it’s important. One of our founders, Dr. Katharine Berry Richardson, taught us about persistence. She promoted medical research until her last days. As I wrote back in January and repeat here today: She even took a stab at trying to explain to people why it was so important:

“Before the scientists learned that your blood could be safely injected into my veins, but could not be safely put into Tom’s veins,” she wrote in 1917, “experiments were carried out for 15 years and eight thousand cases were held in evidence. Finally, the thing was done and transfusion of blood is now an everyday procedure.”

One hundred years ago, people marveled at blood transfusions, and Katharine let them know it would not be possible without research. I suggested to the folks I was visiting with that maybe we need to look to the past to understand how we might best “sell” medical research today. You know, learn a lesson from history. What do we marvel out today that would not be possible without research? Vaccine? DNA? Epigenetics? (Look it up!)

For a talk I presented on the history of research at Children’s Mercy, I included a picture of the 1917 newsletter, The Messenger, that included a plug for research. Several people in the audience were fascinated and asked for a copy. See it above. It may be “old news,” but I think some of it bears repeating. I’ve copied some of it below:

Why Mercy Hospital Wants Laboratories and Asks Your Help in Securing Them

  1. Because modern medicine is the product of the test tube and the microscope.
  2. Because we have commercialized our scientific discoveries, our serums and bacterines and anti-toxins, until they are utterly out of the reach of the people.
  3. Because the Laboratories everywhere are either strictly money-making affairs, or so surrounded by an air of mysticism and with a language so absurd and unintelligible that to the ordinary practicianer [sic] they are utterly inaccessible.
  4. Because Mercy Hospital furnished a wonderful opportunity for the discovery of a cure for the frightful, death-dealing child diseases.
  5. Because the germs of great discovering are quite as likely to be in the brain of an obscure physician as that of a great savant.
  6. Because the obscure physician has no laboratory facilities at his disposal, and the best he can do is to turn his patient over the presumably Great Specialist and go back discredited to his practice.
  7. Because with a small staff and a fine Laboratory Director, it is possible to welcome all honest investigators, and to so guard their work that no harm can come to the children.
  8. Because data secured by putting children under unnatural or unhappy conditions is valueless and because Mercy can and will look to the comfort as well as the recovery of its children.
  9. Because Mercy wants to furnish free diagnostic help to any physician whose patients are unable to pay.
  10. Because it is not necessary to have the Rockefellow [sic] millions in order to accomplish the very finest work, and because the undue prominence given to this immense sum, discourages individual effort, and is actually a hindrance to scientific progress.
  11. Because we want to do the very best for every little creature that comes to us and because we feel that out of the wonderful advantages of Mercy Hospital should come great discoveries for the actual prevention of the awful deformities which at present we can do little more than modify.

 

 

 

Research: ‘So great a possibility of good’

I wasn’t so sure, when I was asked a couple of months ago to talk during “Research at Children’s Mercy Month,” that I had the right stuff to say. That didn’t stop me from accepting the invitation, of course. As I’ve reported before,  I’m a talker and I love to tell  this story.

It’s not that I didn’t believe we had a strong history of  medical research. We do.  I know some of it and I’ve told some of it, both in this blog and in the book, For All Children Everywhere. It’s just that I wondered (privately) if the history was really important at this time, in light of all the new dazzling scientific study and construction that’s going on in 2018. Do people really want to look to the past?

Then I came to my senses.

Of course history is important and relevant. As I have said many times, knowing the past is important to get to the future. We must understand and embrace where we have been.  As both organizations and individuals, our past shapes us indelibly, sometimes in ways we barely comprehend. But the closer we are to understanding where we’ve come from, the better we can shine a light on the path to a brighter, better, healthier tomorrow.

So I got over my unease, got off  my soapbox … and promptly went on to other tasks.

You see, as is often the case when I accept jobs with deadlines well into the future, I get distracted with other things and, well … let’s just say these distant projects get put on the  proverbial back burner. (I like the sound of that better than saying my procrastination gene kicks into high gear. Some day I may do a research study to figure out where that came from!)

Anyway, I won’t say I forgot about the talk, but the timing sorta of sneaked up on me. February. March. April. And now, no more time for the  back burner. It’s May and it’s Research Month at Children’s Mercy. There’s no more just thinking about the talk. I had to put it  down  on paper, or more accurately put it down on PowerPoint.

Once I started working on the talk, which I am calling “So great a possibility” from a quote of one of our founders, I was reminded that, yes indeed, we have a history rich in research. And, likewise, a future that is bright and filled with boundless possibilities because of research.

I wrote about research being in our DNA back in January, when we announced  plans

Dr Hellerstein pic
One of the preeminent researchers (and clinicians and educators) who joined Children’s Mercy was Dr. Stanley Hellerstein, a nephrologist.

for a new building to house our Children’s Research Institute. At the top of this post is a drawing of what it might  look like at night when it’s completed in a couple  of years. Pretty cool, huh? Reaching for the stars from atop Hospital Hill. Some have said it will be the envy of the research world.

I won’t bore you with what I wrote back then and  I won’t spoil the fun by telling you what I’m going to be talking about Monday. But what I will say here and now is that our founders, Drs. Alice Berry Graham and Katharine Berry Richardson were major advocates of medical research. They put us on a strong foundation that has endured for generations. They knew of the importance of the  proverbial three-legged stool to provide the best care for  children: clinical care, education  and research.

Among  Katharine’s last wishes (that we know of) was for a research building for

IMG_6602
Dr.  Ralph Kauffman was hired as the first director of medical research at Children’s Mercy in the 1990s, about the time the hospital released its first Research Vision. He is shown in the labs of the Clinic and Research building at an open house in 2003.

Children’s Mercy. (She thought she had one in the 1920s, but we ended up building a home for nurses instead. That’s another story!) We’ve been making progress toward her wish, one step at a time, ever since. The Children’s Research Institute building is like a giant leap. And I don’t suspect we’re anywhere near the end of the journey.

My talk, in case you’re interested, is planned for  noon Monday, May 7, in the Hematology/Oncology Auditorium on the  Adele Hall Campus. It will be recorded so you can watch it later (just like you do with episodes of your favorite TV  shows and your DVR) and I’ll be sure to report in this  blog how to find it, assuming it’s available to the general public. I’ll also try to figure out how to post my slides somewhere so you can see them. (I love learning new things!)

As I mentioned, this talk is part of a month of  activities promoting research at Children’s

1990s_Mid to late_Profile-raiser card paid by James B. Nutter_CMH 1
This postcard was part of a campaign in the 1990s to promote Children’s Mercy as a national leader in pediatric research, clinical care and education.

Mercy. Other events, listed below, are also documented in the Research Insider newsletter we produce.

May 9 (Wednesday)

Noon-1 p.m.

Translating Evidence into Practice

Presented by: Jackie Bartlett, PhD, RN, Director, Evidence-Based Practice
Location: Hem/Onc Auditorium

May 18 (Friday)
Noon-1 p.m.
‘Health Literacy 101 for Research’
Presented by: Angie Knackstedt, BSN, RN-BS, Health Literacy & Bioethics Clinical Coordinator
Hem/Onc Auditorium

May 24 (Thursday)
2-4 p.m.
All researchers and non-researchers are invited to join us in the William P. Harsh Community Room for a Poster Session and Celebration of Research.

May 29 (Tuesday)
Noon-1 p.m.
‘Legally Authorized Representatives (LAR)’
Presented by: Nancy Stimpfel, RN, CCRP, Research Compliant Coordinator and Angela Harse, Staff Counsel & Assistant Risk Manager
Hem/Onc Auditorium

May 30 (Wednesday)
Noon-1 p.m.
‘Children’s Research Institute Support & Proficiency (CRISP) Seminar: Research Administration’
Presented by: Tony Jenkins, Senior Director, Research Administration, RBO
Hem/Onc Auditorium

May 31 (Thursday)
Noon-1 p.m.
Children’s Research Institute (CRI) Town Hall Meeting
Hosted by: Tom Curran, PhD, FRS, Executive Director and Chief Scientific Officer, Children’s Research Institute
Adele Hall Auditorium

The learning never stops at Children’s Mercy. Our children, their families and our communities are counting on us to keep moving the needle. In 1917, Katharine Richardson made a plea for research in the hospital newsletter, The Messenger.

“Modern medicine is the product of the test tube and the microscope,” she wrote. “Never in all its undertakings was there so great a possibility of good to be accomplished.”

Today, we’re living the dream.

OK, OK: Here are some more pictures

I have to admit it (transparency is a popular buzzword in health care … it might as well include historians, too!) that I was a bit surprised at the reaction to the most recent blog posts here with the old photos.

I knew I had discovered (with the help, of course, with my new best friend in our Philanthropy department) a treasure trove of historical goodies — along with some junk, to be quite honest. But the reactions of you, dear readers, was a bit of a surprise.

“Your stats are booming” is the message I receive from  WordPress, the Internet-based platform I use to write and store this blog. That happens when more than the usual number of readers are looking at a particular post. So, how have the posts “My, oh my, how things have changed” and “Make me happy. Show me some pictures” done?

Boom. Boom. And boom.

It’s hard to know exactly how many people are looking at these blog posts. Metrics I have suggest at least 100 people see each post the day it goes up; and there are somewhere between 5 and 20 people each and every day after that … until a new post appears. But that’s just what WordPress shows me.

I swear, everyone I see around the hospital mentions the blog to me and how much they enjoy reading it. “Everyone” is a bit of an exaggeration (I’m Irish, what can I say: I embellish!) but “a lot” isn’t. I don’t know if all of them are included in the WordPress stats. I know from LinkedIn and Twitter that my connections and followers are looking at the posts with some regularity.

So, who knows for sure the total number?

But I do know two things about the last two posts loaded with these old photos: I’ve received more comments and emails than ever before and … boom! Boom! And Boom!

So what the heck, I went back to the photo albums and pulled a few more to share. The group below are from a book dated 1973.

And, yes, there are more where these came from. But I have to move on, at least for a bit. I’ve made another recent discovery (more cool stuff!) and I have a new writing project I’ve begun. Both very exciting. And both I’ll be sharing with you soon. Stay tuned. And be sure to check out some of the visual goodies below.

chiefs around the bed
Children’s Mercy has encouraged visitors since its very beginning. It helps children forget about their trials and brightens their day. This photo is from 1973. Can you recognize these Chiefs? the one in the middle may be sporting a Super Bowl ring.
santas helpers
Santa always needs a little help, so in addition to the Chiefs players, some cheerleaders in their holiday dress joined in the fun.
warpaint
And as if the football players and cheerleaders weren’t enough, the Chiefs mascot, WarPaint, also came along. I wonder how the infection control people reacted to this visitor?
incubator
They may not look all that happy about it, but these folks are posing with a new incubator for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, which was in its early days in 1973 when this photo was taken.
switchboard
Not only has medical equipment come a long way since the 1970s, but how about telecommunications, too? Remember when telephones had wires? And how about an honest-to-goodness dial (bottom right)?

My, oh my, how things have changed

Last time, I mentioned the treasure trove of photos that appeared in my office a couple of weeks ago. It was a very exciting time for me. And while I tried to convey some of my excitement through a blog post, I heard from a couple of readers that what I really should have done was share more of the photos.

“Words are fine, Tom,” one anonymous reader remarked. “But how about letting us see some more of the pictures. Might save you from writing quite so much.”

Well, Mr. (or Miss) Anonymous,  I won’t take that as a “shut up and show us the photos” sort of command.  I’m just glad you took the time to write. And I think it’s a great idea.

I was happy to revisit the photo albums and select a few of  these gems from decades ago to share. I was struck, as  I leafed through the dusty albums, that there’s a bit of a time warp going on here. You can get a glimpse of a different time and place.  It hit me, more than usual, that boy, have times changed.

But I won’t bore you with my words any longer (you can thank the anonymous email-er.) Here are a few more pictures.  The times were different. You be the judge if different is better or worse.

nurses at rodeo
What we do for the kids! These nurses, in their white shoes, dresses and caps, attended a rodeo, getting up close and personal with the dirt and a horse,  presumably for the benefit of  Children’s Mercy.
playground at gillham
The Sybil Silkwood Nutter playground in front of  Children’s Mercy opened to great fanfare in  the early 2000s. Until I saw this photo, I had no idea there was a playground on Hospital Hill before that … this one near the old main entrance, east of  Hallmark Cards, from sometime in the 1970s.
jackie gleason
Jackie Gleason, with his ever-present cigarette, visited Children’s Mercy in the early 1960s with his entourage. You have to wonder whether or not smoking was allowed on patient floors (there were cigarette machines on site well into the 1980s) and if “The Great One” smoked in front of the children. That, and his brass and abusive Honeymooners character Ralph Kramden hardly makes him the ideal role model for children, you’d think.  Would he even be invited to the hospital today?
hopalong gun
I don’t need to wonder what our injury prevention and Child Life folks would have to say today about this celebrity visitor. I sure hope Hopalong Cassidy didn’t shoot the  poor child’s eye out!

Make he happy. Show me pictures

I’m a pretty happy guy most of the time. Oh sure, I get riled. Sometimes flipping through Twitter for news, my serenity gets a little ruffled. (My wife might call it “becoming unhinged,” depending on the latest developments.) But mostly, day in and day out, I really do believe that life is good.

When people ask me how I’m doing, I’ll often respond: “Never better.”

And that couldn’t have been more accurate than the day I walked into my office last week after

heart lung and patient
This photo, from the early 1960s, shows a heart-lung bypass machine and a little girl who was connected to it during a recent surgery. Holding her hand is hospital administrator John Stockwell.

being out of town for several days. There, on the little table in the middle of the room were a pair of dusty, crumpling cardboard boxes. My heart began to beat just a little faster as I pulled back the tan-colored box tops to see what was inside.

Not one, not two … but nearly a dozen photo and newspaper clipping albums. Inches thick. Jam packed with pictures and stories. And memories. I firmly believe the old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. I just had millions and millions of words dropped in my lap.

Pictures tell great stories. Show great emotion. Encourage us. Challenge us. Inspire us.

I forgot what I was intending to do.

There were pictures of staff members and patients and visitors. There were class photos (with the names of the graduating nurses on the back!) and pictures from officials teas and celebrations. There were posed pictures and candids. Some of the pictures show how medical science has evolved; others did the same for men’s and women’s fashions. (Oh my, how some of us used to dress!)

The next couple hours were a blur. Thank goodness I wasn’t on deadline and didn’t have

carol burnett authograph
I had seen a photo of Carol Burnett visiting children before, but not the autographed portrait.

any place to be. Because I was stuck. Trapped. Engrossed in history. Marveling at these moments in time, captured in black-and-white, from the 1940s to the 1970s.

I had not seen these pictures and notebooks before. At one point, I cursed not having them when we were putting together “For All Children Everywhere.” Where were these when I was searching?

I don’t even want to mention them to the book editor and designer who were constantly on me a year or so ago for more photos, different angles, different eras. (Spoiler alert: I think they read the blog so I’m busted. Maybe we can use them for the second edition.)

Where had these photos been hiding? Some nearby warehouse that we’re clearing out. Evidently, not all the “historical” photos and news clippings had been collected in one place. These albums were “put away” probably decades ago … and promptly forgotten. It’s a shame. But at least they weren’t destroyed, which happens a lot, I’m afraid, when people can’t see the value of keeping old papers and artifacts. I’m glad we have them back.

And I hope to be able to prevent this sort of “misplacement” from happening again. If nothing else, the work I’ve been doing, and the book we published, has raised awareness of our history and people know we’re interested in this stuff and have a plan for preserving and organizing our photos and other records. The University of Missouri – Kansas City is our partner in this endeavor and the folks there are real treasures. They like old pictures and dusty boxes as much as I do, probably more. They tell me that history buffs love old photos most of all. I’m gonna make a lot of people happy when I turn these photo albums over to the Miller Nichols Library LaBudde Special Collections.

(They are working to make the thousands of photos they already have available online; you can already visit the UMKC library (3rd floor) and ask to see the collection. The librarians are happy to help.)

When I was telling my boss the other day about this new “find,” we joked that you just never know what you’re going to find. Heck, we’ve been around for 120 years … there has to be lots and lots of reports and pictures and books and letters we haven’t yet discovered. Who knows what lurks in the backs of closets or storerooms or long, hidden hallways across our sprawling campuses?

I’m almost afraid to ask. But I know I must … it might be just what I’m looking for. And that will make me really happy!

back braces
These young men in back braces were photographed to show the latest in medical technology, circa 1940
stockwell on phone
John Stockwell, Children’s Mercy administrator 1958-1962, photographed in his office on Independence Avenue by Roger Swanson, hospital public relations director who wrote a A History of the Children’s Mercy Hospital, published in 1961.

Playtime can be serious business

One of the thing  I’ve told people for  years that makes Children’s Mercy a great place to work is the way we try to incorporate fun into the environment. Long before our in-house artist “Scribe” put his  magical touches on the walls and ceilings and atriums around our facilities in the city and region, the architects and others put in “kid-friendly” touches wherever they could: lights that shine through prisms for an array of  color splashed up the  walls of a long hallway; a “sky dome” with thousands of  LED lights that change color and a surprise shooting star for those, er, patient enough to wait; the  world’s largest working piano, built into a cement sidewalk on the  grounds of the playground  in  front of Children’s Mercy Hospital on the  Adele Hall Campus.

“It’s for the kids,” I’d tell people. “But it sure  makes  it  nice for  the  adults, too.”

It also may help keep us young. Which is something often lamented about growing up: kids at play 1 we lose our kid-like wonder of the world. And that’s a shame. I admit it, sometimes I wish I had as much enthusiasm for, and awe of, the world that I see in my grandchildren. I don’t consider myself a jaded old soul by any means, but when I see or hear the idealism of young  people, I sometimes think about how some (just some) of my own has slipped away.

But recently, I’ve had a chance to rekindle of it. I’ve been going to play group. And it’s part of the job.

That’s right. Over the course the of the past couple of  weeks, I have attended (and participated a bit) in some of the play activities at Children’s Mercy. Each and  every day, on each and every floor of our inpatient towers, we have organized play groups for  patients and their siblings. Parents are invited, too, of course.  There are employees — Child Life activity coordinators — whose job it is to play with the kids. Engage them. Get to know them.  Encourage them.  Comfort them. Help them forget, at  least for a few minutes, about the craziness, the uncontrolability that  is all around  them.

Play has been a part of  Children’s Mercy from the very early days. Our founders recognized that play is an important part of children’s lives. It is vital to their  well-being. It’s not just, how can  I say it? … well … it’s more than just fun and games.

There is a photo in the history book, For All  Children  Everywhere, of the Junior League Playroom taken in about  1920. We have photos of a Children’s Mercy “band” from the 1950s, an early form of  music therapy perhaps. By the 1970s, we have volunteers whose job it was to play with the kids. We added paid staff to do it by the 1980s. We hired our very first Child Life specialist in the 1990s. Today, we have dozens.

Much can be said about the importance of play for children. Some  people consider  it the “work” of  children. I’m not sure that does it justice. For  many adults, work is something they have to do.  It’s a means (paycheck) to an end (paying bills.) That short changes play, as far as I’m concerned.

Play for children is so much more.  For one, it’s an escape from reality — for adults workkids at play 2 is the reality many wish they could escape. When I saw children — sick children, hospitalized children — hooked up to drainage tubes and IV poles and yet, playing with sand and water and clay and markers … I knew their medical condition was a million miles away. The smiles on their faces told me they were just kids, playing, having a good time. “Look!” they’d scream in delight wanting to show off the Easter bunny they’d created from construction paper and cotton balls.

For a short time, at least, these kiddos were enjoying life. How many adults can say the same thing when they are in the hospital?

Play is, of course, one kind of work for kids.  It’s the “work” of learning. I absolutely adore  watching children figure something out when they are  playing, perhaps with Legos or with a jigsaw puzzle. It’s astounding to almost see the gears  inside their  heads move when a volunteer makes a test tube of “blood” out of mineral oil (plasma) and red and white sparkles (blood cells).

Play can also be therapy. Sometimes, our specialists can watch a child play and learn things about their language development or their home life or their experiences with the health care system. (Watch how delicately — or  roughly — they insert the play needle into their doll to give an immunization? Are we being gentle enough?) We also know that play is important in developing  motor skills and that our physical therapists use play to help children stretch in a certain way or use a particular set of muscles. (PTs do the same thing with adults. We’re never too old to play!)

But let’s be honest, it’s not all serious stuff. While there  is a method to the madness, sometimes it can be just plain fun.

Fun is OK, too. It could be, in fact, just what the doctor ordered.