Boone Life: Not an adult floor

Thursday, December 23, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CST; updated 4:24 p.m. CST, Thursday, December 23, 2010

COLUMBIA — Hospitals don't normally host dance parties, however, the playrooms at MU Children's Hospital do.

"It's not something common on an adult floor, not something people see as acceptable, but here it's a part of our day," Child Life Specialist Corinne Henley said.

The hospital recently underwent major renovations — holding its grand opening in September — and the result is nothing less than a jungle. The halls are warm and inviting, with colorful lizards scurrying down the walls and the leaves of tropical trees spread out over the main desk. The playrooms are filled to the brim with toys. It's perfectly clear that this is no adult floor.

It's more than appearances that make this hospital just for kids. The most important job of the staff is to make the patients feel comfortable, Henley said. Whether it's through a dance party in the playroom or extra toys during a procedure, making kids feel at home comes first.

Some children are in the hospital for extended periods of time, so the staff provides developmental support through toys and games to keep children learning and growing during their stay.

Barbie Underwood's son, Derek, 11, has been in and out of the hospital since he was 18 months old.

"The first stay that we had, you're totally out of your element," Underwood said, "I still remember how scared I was."

Underwood's fears eased once she got used to the way the hospital worked. She said that there has been very little turnover during Derek's time at the hospital and that the nurses and doctors immediately recognize the family when they come in for a visit. Underwood said that the staff has been a huge support during the last 10 years and that parents of kids at the hospital are lucky to be in such good company.

"They take care of me as much as they do him," Underwood said.

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