As we said before, Riley Hospital does not limit their responsibility to the patient. They offer multiple programs for the entire family to support them as child goes through treatment. One of the programs that the cancer center offers is a sibling tour. This program walks the brothers and sisters through the different areas of the hospital that their sibling visits and explains why they go there and what the doctors are looking for.
On November 17th, Riley offered a tour and we had signed Tori up for it a few weeks before at one of the chemo treatments. I left work early and went home to pick her up. I would be taking Tori to the tour while Angie and Bri met the Bennett’s and Young’s at WZPL for WZPL’s annual Make-A-Wish Request-a-thon on the Smiley Morning Show. More on that later.
Brianna had been an inpatient on the 5th floor, the hematology/oncology floor, when one of the sibling tours had come through. This was a large group so when Tori and I showed up for our tour we were expecting the same. After all, it is quite unfortunate but the clinic and cancer floor are normally full of patients so there are many families to get through the tour, if they desire. When we met Bri’s social worker, Stacey Koleszar, at the clinic we learned that one other family was supposed to be coming so this would be a small tour. After waiting around for about fifteen minutes we were told the other family was not going to make it so Tori was going to get a private tour. She felt pretty special about that.
The tour started in the Hematology/Oncology clinic where Bri got her checkups and then we moved the infusion rooms. This is where we spent our days during chemo treatments. I have to admit that I hated going here. One reason was just the fact that my beautiful daughter had to endure something she did not want to do. We sat and watched her be pumped full of poison, a poison that was hoped to kill the cancer, but also a poison that bore the possible side effect of causing other cancer. From the infusion rooms they took us to the clinic lab. They explained to Tori that this is where they brought Bri’s blood just prior to every chemo treatment to check all her counts to insure that they could safely give her the chemo. They even allowed Tori to look at some blood under the microscope and explained how they read the counts.
From here we went downstairs to the area where Brianna had her first CT Scan and an MRI. Just down the hall was where she had swallow studies done. Our hearts were broken so many times in these areas. The tech’s took Tori into a room and showed her the machine used for the scans and then took her to the tech station where they allowed her to see a full body scan and identified different parts of the body. It was very interesting as I had never seen this part either. Every department we went to did an outstanding job of explaining to Tori what Brianna had to go through in their area along with why they performed it and what they were looking for. We made our way out of this department and headed back upstairs to the 5th floor. Tori was familiar with this area already as she had visited Riley while Brianna was inpatient. The nurses knew us, too well in my opinion, and were very good to her as they took her around the floor and showed her their part. There is not much to show on this floor except patient rooms, the supply room, nurses station, and the refreshments/play area.
The tour ended in the play area, which as much as it pains me to say it, was named after Jeff Gordon. It is my understanding that he helped remodel it and is responsible for the items in it. There are board games, books, a jukebox, video games, and many other items. Child Life, a group that visits with the patients and puts on different workshops, uses this area. Krista, who we know well from Bri’s previous stays, and another worker sat Tori down at one of the tables and taught her about the composition of blood. They even let her make blood using corn syrup, red hots, and sprinkles.
This tour is such a blessing to the siblings. Many don’t understand all that is going on and this gives them the chance ask questions and get straight answers. In addition, siblings experience a loss during the sickness. Mom and Dad are so focused on taking care of brother or sister that the siblings feel left out. Their time with Mom and Dad is compromised due to the time and attention required to provide care to the sick child. This tour lets them feel that the attention is totally on them for awhile. The last thing that the siblings go through on this tour is that they receive a gift bag with some nice gifts, one of which is a handheld video camera. It is a wonderful gesture and I hope that they continue it for a long time to come.
Next post we will go back to the granting of Brianna’s wish. It will be a good one so check back soon.