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Jell-0 toss offers fun, respite from hospital stays

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Jaleeya Coleman, a patient at James and Connie Maynard Children's Hospital at Vidant Medical Center, throws Jell-O at doctors and nurses during the annual Jell-O Toss during Child Life Month on March 12, 2019. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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By Tyler Stocks
The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Jell-O went flying on Tuesday afternoon at the James and Connie Maynard Children’s Hospital in Greenville.

Pediatric patients armed with syringes and bowls full of gelatin took aim at doctors and nurses who were dressed in scrubs. 

The Jell-O toss has taken place at the hospital for more than 20 years. The annual event is meant to help children and their families deal with the stress and anxiety that comes from long hospital stays and painful surgeries. 

Around a dozen children, ranging in age from 2 to 19 years participated in the toss.   

Ellyse Bochna, a child life specialist who works on the pediatric unit, said Tuesday’s event allowed patients to have fun and escape the monotony of prolonged hospital  visits. 

“We do this every year and it’s just a great opportunity for our patients to kind of break down barriers with the medical team that’s caring for them,” Bochna said. 

Bochna said that patients at the children’s hospital stay anywhere from two or three days to 100 days or more. 

The Jell-O toss offers patients an alternative to being stuck in their room for long periods of time.  

“We can get messy, have fun and we do this to kind of kick off child life month which is in March,” Bochna said. “As child life specialists, our job is to make the hospital easier for patients and families.  This helps decrease anxiety, increase coping when (patients) are here.

“(Having (patients) have a big food fight is a good way to kind of show them that the hospital can be fun too, even if it’s hard,” she said.

Patients are being treated for a variety of conditions, some more severe than others, Bochna said.  

“We see patients with every diagnosis, including diabetes, sickle-cell, oncology, respiratory viruses and trauma,” she said.    

“The Jell-O toss is really exciting for patients that’ve been in their room for a while or have been going through some really tough things,” Bochna said. “I’ve seen a lot of giggles and smiles with patients.” 

This month also is Child Life Month which is dedicated to honoring child life specialists and increasing awareness about their important work.

Child life specialists provide services in inpatient and outpatient units. The team uses play, education and self expression to promote patient well-being and development, according to a fact sheet that was distributed at the event. The specialists also explain procedures in a way that helps children and families understand the unfamiliar medical environment.

Child-life professionals can be found in many different areas of hospitals, such as emergency departments, patient rooms, surgical areas, radiology, sedation and both pediatric and neonatal intensive care units.

Twelve child life specialists work at the James and Connie Maynard Children’s Hospital.  

Contact Tyler Stocks at tstocks@reflector.com or 252-329-9566.  

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