Child Inspired is proud to feature V.I.P. Hospital Productions in this special blog post. Many thanks to Hannah Doty, Founder and Childhood Cancer Survivor for creating wonderful resources that help children communicate and connect with their medical teams when facing medical challenges. Hannah is an actor and writer, and lives in California. She shares how her personal experience as a child that faced a serious illness has inspired her to help others fight fear with sharing.
Fighting Fear with Sharing
Knowing that overcoming obstacles is possible because it’s been done before is one of the great ways sharing stories can help us through trying experiences and combat fear.
As a child diagnosed with cancer, I was in and out of the hospital for about a year. Meeting other people who had gone through what I had was always uplifting. They offered glimmers of light throughout a time that could be frightening and confusing. I’d think: “Oh she got her hair back, so I will too!” or “My nurse even had cancer when she was a kid like me and now she works here.” It wasn’t until years later that I began reflecting back on my experiences in the hospital with the intention of utilizing all of my own “been there” knowledge.
I went to school to study theatre, and part of my daily routine became warming-up with fellow actors before class or rehearsal. Physically, vocally, and emotionally, warm-ups offer a way to break the ice and build connection/trust between actors before a performance. Imagine actors who had never met suddenly thrown on stage to play a married couple. Without taking any time to warm up, pretending to be married would be awkward and uncomfortable and would probably never be believable to the audience. I realized when I was hospitalized, I instinctively engaged in a kind of “warm-up” with medical professionals to help me cope and feel more in control. I enthusiastically asked doctors to sign my scrapbook when they walked into my room. I proudly showed nurses the pictures I was drawing and my sticker collection. But dealing with adult strangers could still feel scary at times. I remember not being as cooperative as I could have been during a procedure or even lying to a doctor when he asked me what hurt.
Patients and doctors are often strangers who must jump into working together in a trusting partnership. Making time to build connection with each other builds rapport and trust and facilitates honest communication, whether you’re a performer or a doctor. I wanted to create something to help both doctors and patients interact with each other in ways that would be beneficial for all parties. I thought about things that helped me during that trying time and also resources I wish I had had. This is how Star Treatment books came to be. The books are full of fun prompts for interactions that either doctors or patients can initiate. I know from experience that creating simple moments (like finding out your doctor also has a dog) can relieve fear and anxiety for a patient, making the doctor’s job of caring for them easier.
I truly believe having a tool to navigate through treatment in this way can transform the patient experience. Star Treatment books are my way of sharing with others my experience of overcoming a serious illness, just like the people who shared their stories with me.
For more information please visit: www.viphospitalproductions.org
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