Game a day helps young keep the pain at bay

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 November, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 November, 2007, 12:00am

Playright specialists a beacon of light for children stuck in hospital

It is no surprise that play specialists from the Playright Children's Play Association are always the most popular people in children's wards of the hospitals they serve.

Established in 1987, the association aims to help children face medical treatment and time spent in hospital positively through play.

Playright specialists, who have received professional training, visit thousands of children and their families each year, mainly in Caritas Medical Centre and Princess Margaret Hospital.

Orange uniforms, sweet smiles, wonderful toys and lots of playful ideas are what child patients look forward to, declaring they lose their fear of hospitals when they see the 'sisters of Playright'.

Research shows children with access to play services are less emotionally distressed and more ready to cope positively with treatments they must undergo compared to children who do not get such a service.

Positive feelings can also stimulate children's immune systems and assist in recovery.

'Children are more vulnerable than adults in hospital environments,' senior Playright specialist Pony Kong Siu-ping said.

'Many things that appear trivial to the eyes of an adult can be an immense source of distress for a child. But play gives children a channel to discharge their stress.'

Depending on the special needs of child patients, play specialists might use simulation toys such as mini needle tubes and stethoscopes to show them what treatment processes are like.

Meanwhile, the group has also introduced various toys to help patients regain physical functions or increase co-ordination. Chan Man-lung, 16, who has cerebral palsy, has been occupied with a game that helps to improve his hand-eye co-ordination.

'My hands tremble in spite of myself when doing such delicate movements,' said the boy, who just moved into the development and disabled unit of Caritas Medical Centre after an operation on his feet in August.

'After the surgery, I had to lie in bed for 24 hours a day, with both legs in plaster. Fortunately, I have 'Sister Winnie' to chat to and play with,' he said, referring to Winnie Leung Fung-lan, a Playright play specialist.

Ms Leung designed several activities that exercised Man-lung's muscles while he was stuck in bed. 'We placed stuffed toys at different heights above his bed and encouraged him to touch them, and we also set a basket at one side of his bed for him to practise ball shooting. He has made significant improvements,' she said.

As a beneficiary of Operation Santa Claus this year, Playright hopes to set up services in Caritas Medical Centre's development and disabled unit for children with severe developmental disabilities and complex medical problems like cerebral palsy, convulsions and limb contracture.

It also wants to train more volunteers who can help expand the play service to Queen Mary, Duchess of Kent and Grantham hospitals.

It is estimated 6,000 children will benefit from the project over the next year.

Wish list

Wish To provide psychosocial care to children in hospitals. With the association's play service, children learn to face their treatment and time in hospital more positively, with reduced anxiety and co-operating with medical staff.

Aims to raise HK$492,700