Montreal Children's Hospital helps patients cope with move

Helen Magdalinos has been helping Montreal Children's Hospital patients prepare psychologically for the move to Glen site.

Child life specialist Helen Magdalinos prepares young patients psychologically for the big move

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      Six-year-old Jouri Abdulmaola proudly packs up her Frozen-themed suitcase as she prepares to leave the Montreal Children's Hospital — her home since she was two years old — and move to the new location at the MUHC's Glen site.

      "I (packed) my sippy cup, Snakes and Ladders and my clothes," she said. 

      Daybreak's Shari Okeke brings the story of the Montreal Children's Hospital move from the perspective of children who live there. She also spoke with child life specialist Helen Magdalinos. 12:00

      Jouri suffered a spinal cord injury when she was two years old. She now uses a wheelchair and needs a ventilator to help her breathe.

      Leaving her room on the 7th floor at the Children's Sunday morning will be a huge change but she's excited about it and knows exactly who will accompany her in the ambulance.

      "My dad, an RT (respiratory therapist) and the nurse," she said.

      Much of her confidence is due to the fact that her child life specialist, Helen Magdalinos, has clearly explained what she should expect.

      Magdalinos prepared a "countdown calendar" so children would know how many more sleeps until moving day, she delivered suitcases for them to pack a few items and showed them photos of their new rooms.

      She's part of a team of 10 child life specialists who work as advocates for patients at the Montreal Children's Hospital, helping children cope with all aspects of their hospitalization.

      "We`re always there next to the child, for the child, to make sure they understand, to make sure they're being heard," Magdalinos said.

      Jouri shares a room with two other patients — 11-year-old Loïc Bydal and 18-month-old Paulusie Sakiagak. Both boys are also dependent on ventilators and Magdalinos says the three children have a sibling-type relationship.

      At the Glen site each child will suddenly be in a single-patient room. The MUHC points out several advantages, including a reduced spread of infection and more space for families.

      Magdalinos says Loïc, who is approaching adolescence, is ecstatic.

      "He'll have right now it's positive for him. I think for someone like Jouri who's very will be more difficult transition for her because she'll be in an isolated room by herself," she said.

      Magdalinos is already trying to think of ways to compensate, especially in the case of 18-month-old Paulusie who is often stimulated just watching and listening to Jouri and Loïc.

      "We have to make extra effort...and make sure we're able to still meet their needs," she said. 

      Magdalinos is still busy preparing a playroom and other resources for patients at the new site. 

      Each child will receive a surprise gift package including a teddy bear in a yellow back pack when they arrive at the Glen site Sunday.

      That's a bonus for Jouri who is already excited about her new home.

      "I know I'm gonna have a telephone and a big room and a bed," she said.

      About the Author

      Shari Okeke is writer/broadcaster for Daybreak on CBC Radio, and creator of Mic Drop, an award-winning CBC original podcast.


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