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When nine-year-old Joe Smith* was rushed to Indiana University Health Arnett Hospital after a car accident, he was terrified. He didn’t know what to expect or if he was going to be okay.
It didn’t take long though for Certified Child Life Specialist Olivia Rauschenbach to calm Joe, turning his tears to smiles.
Olivia is one of only two child life specialists at IU Health Arnett Hospital. In 2018, she piloted the Child Life Program which seeks to make the hospital experience less frightening for pediatric patients. She and her colleague Mollie Lane work alongside the highly skilled clinical team of providers, nurses, medics, social workers, and technicians to provide personalized care to children like Joe.
The program is unique to IU Health, with only two other hospitals offering similar services: Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health and IU Health North Hospital.
“Kids go to every hospital,” says Olivia. “Parents rely on them for their child's care, regardless of whether they are designed specifically for children or not.”
To help make kid-friendly updates to the program at IU Health Arnett Hospital, donor support has helped supply multisensory equipment and new toys to enable a sense of normalcy in the medical environment. “We can’t do any of this without philanthropic support,” says Olivia.
One donor who is comforted by the Child Life Program is Richelle Peterson.
“After losing my mom at a young age, I grew up fearing doctors and hospital,” Richelle says. “If I would have had access to a child life specialist when I was a kid, it would have taken out a lot of fear.”
To help children in her community better cope with hospital visits, Richelle has generously agreed to support the program for the next five years. “I want to take care of my corner of the world. It’s my responsibility to make it better,” she says.
Richelle discovered her corner earlier this year after she met Olivia. “When I agreed to fund the Child Life Program,” Richelle says, “Olivia started crying. I knew in that moment that I had made the right choice. She cares about those kids.”
Thanks to Richelle’s gift, the program will be enhanced and will soon allow the staff at IU Health Arnett Hospital easier access to coping materials and comfort items for pediatric patients. She also hopes the program is replicated throughout the IU Health system to give all Indiana kids access to the best care with a pediatric focus that’s right for them.
“I’m not doing this for recognition,” says Richelle. “I’m doing it for the kids. I’m doing it so they have an advocate and a comforter when they are scared. That advocate is Olivia and because of her know that someone's world may just be a little better and that makes mine better."
If you would like to join Richelle to support the Child Life Program at IU Health Arnett Hospital, contact Adrian Brendel, IU Health Foundation development officer at email@example.com or 765.412.9189.
*Patient’s name has been changed to protect his identity.