Medical appointments can be scary experiences for young patients, and for children with sensory and developmental issues, walking through a roomful of noise, light and unfamiliar people can lead to a meltdown.
Heart of America Medical Center faced such a challenge in caring for youngsters receiving outpatient therapy services for speech and motor development.
“We were struggling with some of the kids who had sensory issues having to walk through the wellness center (where physical and occupational therapy patients are seen),” recalled HAMC Director of Occupational Therapy Alli Rognlien. “They would see other patients, or people working out, and that’s not calming for a pediatric (patient) at all with any type of disability.”
Rognlien said two offices at the end of the hall on the same floor as the wellness center became available “about three years ago.” The hospital’s CEO and assistant had used the offices for many years.
“They offered (the space) to us, and of course, we jumped on the opportunity because of the fact with the pediatric population, it was better to have them away from the rest of the wellness center,” Rognlien said.
The rooms housed “quite a bit of equipment,” Rognlien added.
However, there was nothing really special about the rooms, at first.
“Then,” Rognlien said, “In 2017, when the hospital went through some financial hardship, there was a group of students from Ely (Elementary School), and some of them had parents who worked here. They were sad. They were worried that some of their parents wouldn’t have a job.”
“They were worried about the financial problems, and they ended up holding a bake sale,” Rognlien noted.
The Ely students sold cupcakes and cookies at Rugby school basketball games to raise money for the hospital.
“And they raised I’m not 100 percent sure what the total was, but the amount was close to $1,000,” Rognlien recalled. “And they donated the money to the hospital, and we thought it was fitting that that money should go toward pediatrics.”
The money was used to turn the rooms into more than just an ordinary therapy suite the funds helped to create Brooklyn’s Room.
Rognlien said the suite was named for Ely student Brooklyn Hager, who had organized the fundraising drive.
The room’s muted beige-toned walls hold colorful decals. One wall displays drawings made by children working on their fine motor skills, under a banner that reads, “Every child is an artist Pablo Picasso.”
A modified swing hangs from the middle of the ceiling to help children with balance issues.
Occupational therapist Rachel Bruner and pediatric occupational therapist Jessalyn Ostrem provide services both in Brooklyn’s Room as well as in area schools. Kayla Johnson provides physical therapy services in schools and in Brooklyn’s Room.
The therapists provide services for children with developmental delays from birth through age 21. “We get babies right out of the NICU, all the way through 21,” Rognlien noted.
Rognlien said among the young patients, “sensory processing disorders are huge. (Therapists) see a lot of that, and eating and feeding. Our NICU babies don’t always have that suck and swallow reflex when they’re born.”
“The visual impairments; fine motor delays are very big as well; those handwriting skills, scissor skills; self-care delays the little person who should know how to wipe themselves and pull up their pants and do fasteners and zippers. That’s a big thing too. We’ve got to prepare these kids to get into school and be at the same level as their peers. So, that’s a big push on that the bilateral coordination and of course, the strength and range of motion as well.”
Rognlien said HAMC’s occupational therapy department also contracts with Altru Health to provide speech therapy services.
HAMC therapists are often on the road during the school year.
“We cover the school systems, basically from St. John to Carrington; Ft. Totten to the Rugby area. It’s a huge radius,” Rognlien noted.
“And then, they might have a day or two back in the clinic where they’re seeing the kids in the wellness center,” Rognlien added. And summers, of course; the kids carry over so that progress is not lost over the summer.”
Rognlien said some Pierce County residents with children receiving therapies don’t realize they can find them close to home in Brooklyn’s Room.
“Just recently,” Rognlien recalled, “We got a family who was traveling to Minot, because they had no idea that we did the treatment here, and they were elated because they live just right outside of Rugby, and they could drive 10 miles into town instead of 60 to Minot.”
“And being rural,” she added, “These therapists get so close to the kids, and the kids are pumped when they come for therapy. They’ve been with the same therapist over the years, so they get to know them so well, and the therapists are part of their families.”
“There’s great carryover at home with the parents, too, so it’s kind of a win-win for everybody,” Rognlien said with a smile.
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