The first Valerie Fund Children's Center to be featured is at The Children's Hosptial of New Jersey at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center. In 2015, the Children's Center had approximately 8,273 outpatient visits. Not only does the center focus on pediatric oncology, it is also home to the largest sickle cell program in the state of New Jersey. Every year, nearly 500 infants, children and young adults are treated through the center's pediatric sickle cell program.
Led by Dr. Peri Kamalakar, the team of pediatric oncology physicians, nurses, psychologists, social workers, child life specialists and educational liaisons at Newark Beth Israel work tirelessly around the clock to provide personal and individualized care for the patients and their families.
Child Life Specialist, Jillian Hinko, with a Valerie Fund patient
Child Life Specialists are there to help a patient through the transition and procedures that occur during treatment. This may include playing a game or activity that takes the patient's mind off of their treatment and diagnosis, or to help the patient better understand what they are going through.
Jillian Hinko, a Child Life Specialist at Newark Beth Israel, had the opportunity to work with a patient from the very beginning of her diagnosis and even helped the patient transition when she was moved to another hosptial. "Whenever she was admitted to the hospital I was able to spend time with her just hanging out and doing activities that she liked to help normalize her stay."
Child Life Specialist, Nicole Trujillo, with a Valerie Fund patient
Child Life Specialist, Nicole Trujillo, says what she loves most about her job is that every day is different than the next. "I am often called by medical staff to provide distraction for patients who are receiving medical interventions on the unit such as port accesses, dressing changes, blood draws and IV starts. In my opinion, this makes a huge difference for not only the patient but their family too."
Suzanne Goldberg, who is an Educational Liaison at Newark Beth Israel, hosts a unique opportunity that is open to all patients from any of The Valerie Fund Children's Centers. "On January 28th I will be hosting my 3rd annual Valerie Fund Scholarship Breakfast. The purpose of the event is to ensure that all of our patients that are graduating from high school or going on to graduate school are given the opportunity to apply for all of the scholarships that are available to them."
Educational Liaison, Suzanne Goldberg, with a Valerie Fund patient
"In addition to The Valerie Fund’s scholarship, there are many organizations with diagnosis specific scholarships that have gone unnoticed and unused for years. It is my goal to make sure our patients get the information they need to make this next chapter easier and more attainable. At the event, all patients receive a packet of diagnosis specific information on the scholarships that are available to them. Included in the packet is also information on their legal rights for post-secondary accommodations, as well as information on how to apply for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). All of this while socializing and enjoying a delicious breakfast."
Psychologist, Dr. Caridad Moreno, with a Valerie Fund patient
Patients who are treated at a Valerie Fund Children's Center work with a psychologist who is responsible for coordinating different coping strategies such as, parent, sibling and family counseling, and parent support groups.
Having a psychologist available to children in the same setting where they are receiving medical treatment provides comfort and relief to their families. Dr. Caridad Moreno said, "Families experience a great sense of relief just knowing that a psychologist is available to attend to their children in the event that they present with emotional, social, cognitive and/or difficulties coping in connection with their condition or treatment."
Our next blog will feature The Valerie Fund Children's Centers at Morristown Medical Center and Overlook Medical Center. Overlook, which in located in Summit, NJ was the first hosptial to support a Valerie Fund Children's Center founded by Sue and Ed Goldstein in 1977.
After their nine-year-old daughter Valerie succumbed to cancer in 1976, Sue and Ed Goldstein were determined that no family should have to travel great distances to receive state-of-the-art medical care. Today, more than 6,000 children with cancer and blood disorders benefit immeasurably by receiving their medical treatment close to home in a child-centered environment. The Valerie Fund ensures they do not have to rely on insurance reimbursements to receive a range of customized therapeutic services that enhance their quality of life. For more information, please visit www.thevaleriefund.org.