Tags Posts tagged with "Stony Brook University Children’s Hospital"

Stony Brook University Children’s Hospital

Matt Campo, CEO of RMHC NY Metro receives a check from Chris Murray/Vice President of Marketing at Island Federal. Photo courtesy of Island Federal

Island Federal Credit Union (Island Federal) closed out 2023 by donating to Ronald McDonald House Charities New York Metro (RMHC NYM) to support their work with families that have a child receiving emergency medical care.

Island Federal donated $20,000 to support the construction of a new Ronald McDonald House at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. Also, through the generosity of its employees and members, Island Federal presented more than 10 boxes of toys and games for families staying at RMHC NYM facilities to make their children’s holiday a little more enjoyable.

“Ronald McDonald House Charities New York Metro does an amazing job serving families who have seriously ill children, both at their house in New Hyde Park and at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital through their Family Rooms,” said Chris Murray, VP/Marketing, Island Federal. “When we heard that they were launching a capital campaign to build a new Ronald McDonald House at Stony Brook Hospital, we were anxious to help.”

“We have seen the number of families that we serve in Suffolk County continue to grow and so a new Ronald McDonald House at Stony Brook Hospital is essential to supporting families there,” said Matt Campo, CEO, RMHC NY Metro. “This new house will provide comfort and overnight accommodations just like our New Hyde Park house, offering the parents and siblings of these children a temporary haven in a secure and comfortable environment among other families sharing a similar burden.”

Ronald McDonald House Charities New York Metro (RMHC NYM) provides free lodging, meals, and emotional support to keep families seeking medical treatment for their sick children near the care they need and the families they love.

Andrew Harris’ therapy dog Ransey helped Stony Brook health care workers with a gymnastics routine, shown to nurses and doctors via video call. Photos by Andrew Harris

By Andrew Harris

Ramsey and I look forward to our Tuesday evening visits at Stony Brook University Hospital. We visit the Child Psychiatry Unit and try our best to bring smiles to the young children who may be going through difficult times. We are part of their Volunteer Pet Therapy program and Ramsey is a trained therapy dog certified through Therapy Dogs International. 


“Pet Facilitated Therapy has been a practice at SBUH hospital for many years  and has brought joy and peace to staff and patients during stressful times,” said Rosemaria York, the recreational therapy supervisor at Stony Brook University Hospital.

Ramsey knows when Tuesday comes around and looks forward to visiting. He gets so excited once he sees we are on the campus, and he absolutely adores interacting with the children who love him. Ramsey is used to working — especially with children. He can be seen at the Comsewogue school district often comforting and giving lots of love during stressful times like Regents exams and other high anxiety situations.

The first time that we could not visit the hospital due to the Coronavirus situation, Ramsey was in a sullen mood. I took him for a long walk in the woods instead, but it wasn’t the same. He missed going to the hospital and the adoration from the children and staff members. We always get stopped on our way to the unit by staff members, patients, and family members who want to interact with the dog. Once, we had a special request to go visit a staff member’s friend in the cancer unit. I was amazed by how much joy it brought to her and how great he was nuzzling up to the bed and cuddling with her. What I also saw was how so many staff members came by to say hello. One doctor told us that it was a particularly hard day in that unit so she needed some cuddles too, which Ramsey gladly provided.

“Recently, the Stony Brook Medicine Department of Volunteer Services in conjunction with the Recreation Therapy Department worked together with pet therapy volunteer Andy Harris and therapy dog Ramsey to bring Virtual Pet Therapy to de-stress staff on the units,” said York.

The next thing I knew we got a phone call from the folks at Stony Brook asking if we could possibly do a virtual pet therapy visit — this time for all the nurses, doctors and medical staff at the hospital. I wasn’t sure how it would go, but we were certainly willing to give it our best try to contribute to those fine people on the front line. York told us,  “Volunteer Services and Recreation therapy staff thought why not try Virtual Pet Therapy if we couldn’t have the usual visits? Stony Brook Hospital felt that because their employees were all working so hard and long, and in such a stressful situation, that perhaps a virtual visit might help in the same way that our actual visits benefitted the kids and staff. 

A Stony Brook Hospital worker watches Ramsey do stunts via video stream. Photo from Andrew Harris

“Due to the coronavirus pandemic when the hospital was unable to continue business as usual many practices became virtual, telehealth, etc,” York added. “So volunteer Services and recreation therapy staff thought why not virtual pet therapy if we couldn’t have the usual visits?” 

I knew it would be much different then our normal in-person visits and had to come up with some new ideas because we would be doing our thing from the backyard of our house. Simultaneously, the folks at Stony Brook would be working extra hard walking all over the hospital from unit to unit donned in full PPE gear. 

Normally with the kids, we sit down, chat or read a book and just let the kids cuddle with the dog. We demonstrate how Ramsey has learned not to take food from people or off the floor unless he is given permission. We show how he sits, waits patiently and knows all the different commands. As a therapy dog he has learned not to “shake hands” because this and jumping up on them could compromise people with vulnerable skin conditions. He is not allowed to eat any food because this could be a problem too if there are crumbs in the bed or on someone’s gown in a hospital or nursing home setting.

Sometimes the kids like to see the dog “work” and do some finds. They hide some articles of clothing like a glove or hat somewhere in the room as the dog patiently waits outside the room. As soon as he enters he sniffs it out and finds all the articles. Of course he always gets a reward each time he does a good job.

Since my yard is set up with plenty of things to do with the dog, we were ready to not only provide some therapy for the workers, but to entertain and show them what the dog could do. York said, “… so some recreation therapists armed with an iPad with Mr. Harris and Ramsey streaming live brought Ramsey and his athletic agility abilities along with a bark and a close up camera ‘social distanced’ kiss to the staff.”

Andrew Harris’ therapy dog Ransey helped Stony Brook health care workers with a gymnastics routine, shown to nurses and doctors via video call. Photos by Andrew Harris

First I had him doing the normal stuff, retrieve a ball and relayed the typical commands most people are familiar with. As I pointed the camera on my phone at him, I could hear some nurses getting a kick out of it all — so we decided to step it up a bit. The “ooo’s” and “ahhs” were noticeable especially when he climbed up the ladder to our playhouse and went down the slide. He then showed how he could run up the slide. His final performance, and the most difficult, was walking across a twenty foot ladder propped horizontally raised a few feet off the ground. For that he got a round of applause. When we went back inside he was very exhausted, lay down and took a long nap. We were happy to put a little smile to the wonderful staff at Stony Brook. 

York said, “staff stated that they were happy for the opportunity to interact with the therapy dog even if it was brief and virtual as it brought a smile to their day.”

Andrew Harris is a special needs teacher at the Comsewogue school district.

Teen patients from Stony Brook Children’s Hospital dance at the June 10 prom. Photo from Stony Brook Children's Hospital

By Rita J. Egan

Attending a prom is an important milestone for most teenagers, but for children who are dealing with an illness, they may not always get the chance to experience the rite of passage.

Stony Brook Children’s Hospital ensured their teenaged inpatients as well as outpatients had the opportunity to enjoy the same special moments their peers do when they held their second annual Children’s Hospital Prom June 10. Many of the teenagers were unable to attend this year’s school prom or a previous year’s, or due to life-limiting illnesses may never have the opportunity.

Before the event, many prom-goers had their hair and nails done by volunteers from the New York Institute of Beauty. Photo from Stony Brook Children’s Hospital

Maureen Cole, associate director of nursing at the hospital, said 50 patients between ages 12 and 21 along with their guests attended this year’s prom.

For the event, a youth advisory council was created so the patients could be involved in the planning. She said they chose a Hawaiian luau themed prom that featured tiki torches, grass huts, colorful flowers, Polynesian-influenced cuisine and warm breezes on the hospital’s Level 5 patio. The council also met with chefs and picked the food to be served.

The evening began at 4 p.m. with complimentary hair styling, makeup and nail services all provided inside the hospital by the New York Institute of Beauty. Cole said all the children looked incredible, and there was a waiting area, suggested by the council, for those who chose not to get their hair and nails done to play video games and wait for their guests who were getting pampered.

With physicians, nurses and employees from Child Life Services who volunteered their time in attendance, the teenagers enjoyed a night filled with red carpet snapshots, dancing and games such as limbo.

Michael Reed, a 16-year-old outpatient of the hospital who just completed 10th grade at MacArthur High School in Levittown, was part of the youth council. He said it felt great to see the results of the work of the half dozen members.

“It was, the way that I looked at it, not a masterpiece, but it was what me and a few other people invented, what we helped out with, what we created,” he said.

Reed, who attended last year’s prom, felt getting the opinions of the teens by forming a council was a great idea.

“It looked like everyone had a really fun time,” he said.

Cole said the children miss many special events at school, and despite programs available through Child Life Services, the hospital experience is not a fun one for them.

“It’s our way of giving back,” she said. “And, having a big prom party for them, so they feel that a hospital is not just a bad place to come to because you come here usually when you are sick.”

Two girls dance at the luau-themed prom organized especially for teen patients at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. Photo from Stony Brook Children’s Hospital

Joan Alpers, director of Child Life Services at the hospital, said it’s important for children to spend time with their peers who are going through the same situation they are.

“This gives kids an opportunity to know that they are not alone in the world, that other kids are there struggling just like they are, trying to keep up with school and doing all the things that are hard to do when you are managing a chronic illness and are a teenager,” Alpers said.

The director attended the prom and said it was delightful.

“A lot of kids were anxious and eager to get to the party,” she said. “They had their hair and nails done, and they felt really special. A lot of the boys were wearing flowered shirts with their suits.”

Alpers said there was a sick child in the hospital who they thought may not be able to attend, but she put on her dress and had her hair and nails done. Later in the day, she received the go-ahead from doctors to attend.

“It was so lovely to see her come down [from the ward],” Alpers said. “She wanted to be there so badly.”

Cole said she hopes the hospital will continue to be able to organize the prom every year.

“I really think it’s important for them to feel special because they really are special to us, all the kids,” she said.