From Explosions to Isolation

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 Patient interactions remain the highlight of my time at DCH. On the oncology and hematology floor the students’ stay in the hospital is much longer than kids on the acute care floor, allowing relationships to grow and for teachers to see the progress the students make. I’ve worked with four students, some new and some I have worked with previously.

In the classroom on the 10th floor of DCH I got work disinfecting all the supplies, wiping down the tables and chairs, and ripping newspapers into strips for paper mache. While sitting in the purple chairs of the main table in the classroom a student I worked with previously walked by the classroom, as there is a window that opens into the main hallway of DCH, and we exchanged waves, the whole floor is small making interactions with students a common occurrence. Later that day they entered the classroom, happy to be away from the clinic, although lacking enthusiasm to study WWI. While reading and discussing a section on WWI the student found their bouncy ball they made the day before in a pile. After deforming over night the student and I wanted to see if the ball, now plate, would stick to the wall. The student jumped at the opportunity to throw the ball against the wall, but the polymers in it didn’t stick together as the entire ball broke into tiny pieces scattered throughout the classroom, creating an explosion that could hardly be replicated. As I work with students over a period of time their realities become clearer and making them feel like a normal kid is the most important part of my senior project.

Another student I worked with just wouldn’t stop smiling, so I went and sat down next to them. With a darling smile they asked me, “Do you want this?” Holding up a bar she had.

“No, you can have it, save it for later if you aren’t hungry now.”

“But I have two, I don’t need two,” they responded in such an innocent and kind voice.

“Oh no maybe someone else is more hungry than I am, and I think you may be more hungry later on today.”

“Oh yeah, I will give it to my chemo pal later today.” Still smiling the student began to rap the bars in Kleenex.

“What are you doing with the bars?” I asked.

“I’m making them into candy bars!” The student wrapped them in Kleenex, carefully placed tape on it to seal it up, and then wrote “cande” on the top, in their unique first grade writing and spelling. Also later that day I saw the student in the hallway and said hello and asked them how they liked their candy bar later in the day and they said, “It was good, you should have tried it, also my chemo pal liked it so I should do it again.” It’s amazing how even in hardship kids still find a way to solely be kids, and happy kids.

 Yesterday was also my first time in isolation. Isolation can occur for multiple reasons, but the student I saw yesterday was in isolation so that they couldn’t pass anything on to another patient. This happened because they were running a fever periodically and were being given antibiotics, and now antifungals to try and combat the pathogen that is causing the patient to have a fever. Whatever the patient may have put them in isolation because of the fear that another patient may catch the pathogen. The fear of transmission is extremely high on the oncology ward because all the patients on chemotherapy treatments don’t have adequate immune systems to combat pathogens that most people wouldn’t have difficulty fighting with little symptoms. To enter an isolation room you gown up, meaning I put on a full body apron and gloves that are then disposed of before I left the room. I also worked with this student again today, and I enjoy having the ability to continue working with the same student multiple times. Teaching within a medical environment poses many more challenges than a normal classroom in different ways.

Below is a picture of the bouncy ball a student made that then broke into many pieces as I described above.