Play Space, Happy Place
"Thank you talaga sa Play It Forward kasi para ito sa mga bata".
‘Play’ is a four-letter word that can easily put a smile on a child’s face. But would it have the same effect if the children are in a place where most of them are afraid?
Mythel Valera RN is a pediatric nurse. She facilitates play sessions at the Play It Forward play space at the Lung Center of the Philippines. Also known as ‘Ate Mai,’ she ensures that the children are safe and sound inside the play space. Though her shift starts at 10:00 AM and ends at 3:00 PM, she goes to work as early as 7:00 AM to accommodate patients coming from distant provinces.
She has been working at LCP for six years now, and has been facilitating the play space for nearly two years.
‘A world of their own’
The LCP pediatric ward is a different world. Instead of playing and exploring outdoors, children are in there, fighting cancers and other illnesses.
Nurses like Mythel also fight a daily battle, seeing these children suffer the pain of sharp needles and energy-draining procedures.
For Mythel, the play space has always been an outlet for children to release their fears and worries. This four-walled room is big enough for them to deal with their battles.
Mythel explains on how each day goes at the play area. “Pre- and post-operation, dito sila [sa play space]. Dito muna sila maglalaro, tapos ‘pag tatawagin na namin sila one by one, ‘oh ikaw muna’. Pupunta na sila ‘don, kung anong gagawin sa kanilang treatment, pero basically after ng treatment nila, gusto nila babalik sila dito.”
The power of play
The play space located at LCP is one of the six pilot hospitals of the Play It Forward-Hospitals program.
Mythel shares, “Maganda siya sa bata eh. Napansin ko, parang nawawala yung takot. Kahit yung mga batang nandyan kasi every day yung treatment nila eh. Every day pag dating nila gusto nila dito agad sila. Hindi nila [naiisip] yung pain. Pag after ng treatment sasabihin mo lang ‘Oh maglalaro mamaya.’ Then okay na sa kanila.”
With just a single mention of the word ‘play,’ Mythel found that children become more cooperative when it comes to medical treatments. Children became more familiar with, if not used to, the procedures that they had to undergo. They would even joke around with the nurses about how to go through their treatments.
“’Kukuhanan rin kita ng CBC!’ Gaganunin ka na nila. O kaya, ‘Ready ka na ba?’ Kasi parang yung mga experience nila dito, gagawin nila sakin. Kaya sabi ko, ‘O hindi sila natatakot,’” Mythel shared.
She found that a favourite among the kids is the drawing area. “Gusto kasi nila every day mag da-drawing sila. Siguro yan yung way nila nang pagtanggal rin ng stress.”
Playing it forward
Many others do their part as volunteers, and also donate materials for the patients: books, toys, even snacks.
The Dimaiwat family, founder of My Brave Little Warrior, Inc. (MBLW), are among the regular and dedicated volunteer facilitators in the play space. They make it a point to visit the kids every week. Most pediatric patients look forward to Fridays, when MBLW volunteers hold day-long fun and exciting activities for kids.
Even celebrities such as Heart Evangelista, Derrick Monasterio, and PBA and UAAP Basketball players spent time playing with the children. Other kids would celebrate their birthdays at the hospital, specifically at the play space.
“Kahit ‘yung mga bata mismo, nagugulat na lang ako na gusto nilang mag birthday dito kasi na-a-associate nga nila na happy place nila ito. Kahit na nag-po-procedure sila. Dito talaga nila gusto mag stay,” Mythel says.
Mythel says she wants to share with other hospitals how play can help children cope with their treatments. For her, it is also essential to help them cope mentally and emotionally.
“Very beneficial kasi sya sa pedia ward eh. Siguro hindi pa nakikita ng ibang hospitals ‘yung impact ng play. Pero malaking impact talaga siya. Nakakatuwa kasi kahit papano nakakalimutan nila yung mga [procedures] na ginagawa sa kanila.”
Mythel is very happy that other nurses and doctors would look for her whenever there are children visiting the hospital. They would regularly ask her if they can have some time to play with other kids.
“Natutuwa po ako. Sobrang saya. Kasi para sa mga cancer patients, iba talaga ‘yung nabibigay na joy sa kanila [ng play],” Mythel shares. “Thank you talaga sa Play It Forward kasi para ito sa mga bata.”
Indeed, the play space is more than just a room filled with toys. It is a happy place, where children can be themselves, where there is no pain, and where there is hope.
Mythel Valera, RN, is a nurse at the Pediatric ward at the Lung Center of the Philippines. She is also a trained Play It Forward-Hospitals facilitator.