My eyes welled up with tears when I saw photos this week on the Disney Parks Blog of the entrance to the Walt Disney Pavilion at Florida Hospital for Children. I know first-hand what a difference this can make in the lives of children with chronic or severe illness.
I’m a big fan of the Children’s Hospital here in Boston, and it’s not just for the technical excellence of their staff, or the world-class facilities they offer. It’s the fact that the technicians have always chatted happily with my child when he’s undergone difficult procedures or tests, and that we could go hang out in the lounge and play (free) video games afterwords. I remember one particularly sad moment that was mitigated by the (free) jukebox in that same lounge, entertaining my spouse and I in a moment near despair.
I still remember one technician wearing a Walt Disney World lanyard during an hour-long preparation for one set of tests, after the completion of which we (yes indeed) jetted down to Florida for a couple days of respite from worry. And I don’t think I’ll ever forget the nurse from Arkansas who told my son jokes one difficult night; I’ll bet he’d even remember the man’s name if I asked.
I know first-hand, too, that many visits to hospitals for children aren’t quite so dramatic, and that when you’re sitting in the ER at 2am waiting to be seen, any sort of entertainment or whimsy can be alternately annoying and reassuring. (And I for one am grateful when the doctor’s not in a hurry to see me. It usually means I’m not sick or injured enough to be rushed to the front of the line, and I’m glad for that.)
Interactive displays and themeing don’t cure cancer; neither do they mend a broken arm. But when you’re in the thick of it, a smile sure helps. So does knowing that someone cared enough to try to make your day a little easier, a little more magical.