CHOC Celebrates Child Life Week

The team of child life specialists at CHOC Children’s strives to “normalize” the hospital environment for patients and families. By making things like medical procedures and equipment less foreign,  patients can focus on what’s important: feeling better.

Their work includes surgery preparation and support; therapeutic medical play; new diagnosis education and support; developmental stimulation; sibling support; and specialized therapeutic programs like pet, art and music therapy.

This week, during Child Life Week, CHOC celebrates our fabulous and dynamic child life team, and the role they play in our commitment to patient and family-centered care. Watch this video for a glimpse into CHOC’s child life services.

Learn more about the child life department.

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Toy Drive to Support CHOC Children’s Patients, Families Dec.19

CHOC is grateful for the support of our community, especially during the holiday season as people wish to remember our patients and families. Our annual holiday toy drive will be held Saturday, Dec. 19 from 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. in our employee parking structure, located at 557 South Main Street, Orange, CA 92868. We are unable to accept donations in the main hospital lobby.

Due to limited storage space, the donation of gift cards is encouraged. This enables our trained child life specialists to purchase toys and craft supplies based on the developmental age and gender of our current patients. Gift cards to stores such as Target, Toys “R” Us, Babies “R” Us, Walmart, Michaels, Barnes & Noble, and Visa/MasterCard gift cards are greatly appreciated.

Those wishing to donate toys can refer to our Wish List to choose from the items we find the most appropriate and popular with CHOC’s diverse patient and family population. We are always in need of more activities for our teen population.

Community members unable to participate in the toy drive but interested in donating can log on to and search for the “Children’s Hospital of Orange County” wish list. Donations will be shipped directly to CHOC.

Please note that we are unable to accept the following items:

  • Stuffed animals
  • Handmade blankets, hats, socks, etc.
  • Get well cards
  • Big items: bikes, skate boards, etc.
  • VHS tapes
  • Used toys
  • Clothing
  • Promotional items with company logos

For more information, please call 714-509-4519.

Thank you for your continued support of CHOC Children’s!

Preparing Your Child for Surgery

Surgery is scary for kids and parents, alike, but not talking about an upcoming surgical procedure can create more fear and anxiety in children. In episode number 29, Child Life Specialist Brianne Ortiz offers tips for preparing children, from toddlers to teens, for surgery.

The amount of information, in addition to how and when it’s presented, depends on the emotional and cognitive age of the child. Brianne recommends parents speak to children, ages 3 to 5, approximately three to five days before the scheduled surgery. These younger-aged children often think they’ve done something wrong, so it’s important to reassure them that’s not the case and to present information in concrete terms they understand. She reminds parents that toddlers don’t have a concept of time. Instead of saying a procedure will last an hour, for example, explain that it will be over in about the same time as their favorite TV show.

Adolescents most often worry about waking up during surgery and about pain. Brianne educates teens on the role of the anesthesiologist and the hospital’s pain scale. She encourages teens to engage with their care team and not be afraid to speak up.

Listen to the episode for more helpful tips, including resources offered by CHOC.

CHOC Radio theme music by Pat Jacobs.

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Tips for coping with hospitalization with Chloe Krikac

From pet therapy to Seacrest Studios, CHOC Children’s offers a host of amenities to help children cope with their hospitalization. The child life department plays a key role in normalizing the hospital environment by making things like medical equipment and procedures feel less strange.

In this CHOC Radio segment, Child Life Specialist Chloe Krikac shares a little about the support provided to patients and families, in addition to offering tips to parents. Bringing comfort items, such as a favorite pillowcase or stuffed animal, and family photos is one suggestion Chloe offers parents and caregivers to help children feel more “at home” in the hospital. Although developmental age and health condition impact what information is provided to a child, the approach is the same: making sure patients understand why they are in the hospital and how the doctors and nurses are going to help them get better.

For more tips, listen to episode number 31 of CHOC Radio.

CHOC Radio theme music by Pat Jacobs.

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Music Therapy at CHOC Provides Healing, Positive Diversion

It is a known fact that listening to music can soothe one’s soul, but studies have shown that music can also promote the physical healing process. Some of the benefits that aid healing include pain management, relaxation, motor movement, enhancement of self-esteem and other social skills, and providing a positive diversion.

DSC_8947And, with the recent opening of our new in-house studio, Seacrest Studios, located in the Bill Holmes Tower at CHOC Children’s, enjoying music is just the beginning. The 652-square-foot facility includes five guest microphones; production-quality video cameras; and a green screen that will allow for patient participation in video projects. Live performances in nearby areas will also be broadcast through the studio.

We spoke to Eric Mammen, Music Therapist in CHOC Children’s Child Life Department, who shared the benefits of music therapy and having our very own multimedia studio at CHOC!

Q:  How long have you been at CHOC Children’s, and how did you become interested in this field?
A:  I have been at CHOC for just under 5 years and first became interested in music therapy while I was studying music in college. A class within the music curriculum was called, “Inside the Music Industry” and we had a different presentation each week about various career options available to those with musical talents.  I saw a presentation about music therapy and I knew in that moment I was going to be a music therapist.

Q:  What is music therapy?
A:  Music Therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program. To the untrained eye, or from the patient’s perspective, we are just playing instruments and singing songs.  However, in reality I am using the music to achieve quantitative and qualitative non-musical goals set by the patient care team.

Q:  What are some of the changes you have seen in patients who have participated in music therapy?

Eric Mammen, MT-BC, music therapist at CHOC Children's
Eric Mammen, music therapist at CHOC Children’s

A:  I have seen children use an extremity that they have been neglecting since a surgery and a child sit up for the first time in weeks to engage with the musical experience. Every day I see children laughing and playing while undergoing intensive chemo therapy. A 5-year-old little girl who was on the oncology floor for an extended period of time, immediately told me and her parents me that she forgot that she was in the hospital during our  “music time.” Many times the parents have tears of joy to see their child having fun and being a kid again, if not for a few minutes.

With the teens and young adults, we do song writing, song recording and learn how to play instruments. When I give the patient their CD with their own voice or original song, I always tell them that they have to listen to their music in their car as they drive away from the hospital – a victory song if you will.

Q:  How will the new Seacrest Studios benefit the kids at CHOC?
A:  We are so lucky to have a space within the hospital like Seacrest Studios.  To be able to broadcast audio and video throughout the hospital allows our patients to express themselves and relate to one another on a deeply personal and emotional level.

We broadcast the songs that the patients may write or sing within the music therapy sessions, during the radio shows. The patient can come down to the studio and be interviewed and share about their song. This studio allows them tell their story, share their experiences, and let the other children know that they are not alone in their battle.  We have great volunteers to help the patients feel welcomed and special when they are “on-air.”  Music is powerful and this new studio allows the patients at CHOC to experience that power in new and exciting ways.

Learn more about specialized therapeutic programs at CHOC. 

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