There is a corner room on the third floor inside Cohen Children’s Medical Center that is in bright contrast to its two adjacent rooms. The walls are coverd in brightly colored squares with flat screen TVs hanging at certain spots. X-Box 360s are connected to monitors and ergonomic couches furnish the space.
This is the Lion’s Den Playroom of Cohen Children’s Medical Center. The Billie and George Ross Foundation teamed up with NHL Hall of Famer Pat LaFontaine’s Companions in Courage to donate the interactive game room. It is the 17th Lion’s Den room LaFontaine’s organization has helped build across the country reaching over 50,000 children.
LaFontaine has already left one legacy here on Long Island playing hockey as a part of the New York Islanders and eventually making it into the NHL Hall of Fame. Now he is leaving a much more personal and poignant mark.
“Hockey was just a stepping stone and these children are the ones with the courage,” he said. “Hockey was just a conduit to what’s important in life.”
He went on to recall a story of a child who used one of the Lion’s Dens whose mother approached him to tell him her son hadn’t pressed his morphine button in 50 minutes. Before the child was in the room he pressed it every 15 minutes.
LaFontaine called the rooms “little healing centers” as they help to block the pain receptors in the body and promote healing.
With all the beeping machines, IV bags, tubes and wheelchairs the room is a bright spot within the hospital allowing patients to hear a comforting voice or to be comforted from a peer, unwinding with a video game, or watching television on the couch, the room attempts to inject some normalcy into the arduous life of the pediatric patients.
“Play and allowing a break from the care is critically important to the healing process,” Executive Director of Cohen Children’s Medical Center Kevin McGeachy said. “Allowing kids to be kids, giving them a sense of home, allowing their families to be with them is just as important to the healing process as any drug or other piece of equipment. That’s what this playroom represents. It allows our children that we care for to take a break from being a patient and go back to being a kid.”
Some children had already begun playing the games and were communicating with children at Mt. Sinai hospital in Manhatten through a webcam set up on one of the TVs. The webcam-connected television will be used for patients to also communicate with their families during extended hospital stays and other children at Lion’s Dens throughout the country.
Companions in Courage has also helped build a “Cub Room” in Huntington Hospital and has set up over 400 kiosks in hospitals throughout the country.