Turning 10 is a huge milestone for any kid -- they’ve hit double digits and want to celebrate. For Mae Phelan, her 10th birthday party was one she’ll never forget. She’d been looking forward to having two friends go with her to an indoor sports entertainment facility followed by a sleepover. During the party, there was an unexpected detour to Mercy Children’s Hospital emergency department when Mae broke both her arms.
“She was beside herself,” said Mimi Phelan, Mae’s mom. “It was a very traumatic time for her.”
While it was traumatic, Mae still talks about her experience in a positive light. Mimi said Mae continues to talk about her friend, Ali, who helped her in the hospital.
Ali Stewart is a Mercy Kids child life specialist who works with kids in the emergency department.
Child life specialists work with children and their families to help them cope with the challenges of hospitalization through age-appropriate preparation and distraction for medical procedures. Mercy’s child life program expanded by adding child life specialists not only for those staying in the hospital, but also for kids who visit the emergency department, have a surgery or come to the hospital for an outpatient test or procedure.
Mimi recalled visiting the ER with her older son before there was a child life specialist onboard and how much it’s changed. “It really made a world of difference. Ali made Mae feel better and more relaxed, making it easier for everyone.”
“It was a challenging task working with a 10 year old who broke two arms on her birthday,” Ali said. “But Mae was brave beyond her years as she faced so many new and scary things in such a short time.”
Ali explained that she worked with Mae and her family to prepare her for - and distract her during - an IV, worked on therapeutic breathing exercises to help her cope with x-rays and then prepared, using age-appropriate language, for the procedure to fix and splint her broken arms.
Mae even got to celebrate her birthday with gifts and movies while she waited for the x-ray results.
“I can’t imagine the gift Ali is to so many children and parents, not to mention the nurses,” Mimi said.