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Updated Mar 6, 2014 - 4:46 pm

Hospital offers friend specialists to ease kids' stress

Child Life Specialist Melissa Ladensack (right) poses with Nyaomi and some dolls. (KTAR Photo/Bob McClay)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Being in the hospital can be pretty stressful for a child. A Valley hospital uses specialists to act as friends to help them out.

Six-year-old Nyaomi was in the pediatric unit of Scottsdale Healthcare Shea when she had some visitors last night.

"My mom and the Tooth Fairy!" Nyaomi said. "I lost a tooth!"

Nyaomi came to the hospital 13 days ago, suffering from pneumonia and severe asthma. She was able to go home Thursday.

Child Life Specialist Melissa Ladensack has been Nyaomi's buddy during her say. They've spent their time coloring, drawing and playing with dolls.

The dolls are specially-made to help kids who will undergo surgery learn what the doctor's going to do.

"We can open the doll's little bellies and show the kids where their appendix is and they can feel what that looks like on the doll," Ladensack said.

And there are other tools that can help ease a child's stress.

"We use actual medical items that they can play with in order for them to feel and touch them, and realize that they're not as scary as they may look," said Ladensack.

Child Life Specialists accompany the kids during medical procedures to help reduce stress. They are non-medical members of the medical care team.

March is Child Life Specialist month.

Scottsdale Healthcare Shea is offering tours of its pediatric care unit to parents by appointment. For more information, call (480) 882-4000.

About the Author

Years with the company: I started on January 2, 2006.

Education: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but we moved to Phoenix when I was one-year-old in 1957. I grew up here and graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Phoenix College.

Family: I live in north Phoenix with my wife Rene' and my son Devin.

Favorite food: Lots of favorite food, but our favorite restaurant is Fajitas.

Favorite spot in Arizona: The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.

Favorite news memory: We have to go back to October 15, 1979. I was a country music air personality at KROP Radio in Brawley, California, when we had a 6.7 earthquake. Thankfully, there were no deaths and only minor injuries, but the entire community was pretty freaked out and listening to the station on their transistor radios. I would not want to go through an earthquake again, but it sure was a great night to work in radio and see how it can make a difference in people's lives.

First job: Working as a stringer for 'The Arizona Republic' at high school football games. My first real job was flipping burgers at the old Sandy's Hamburgers at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road. My first radio job was as announcer at KALJ radio in Yuma in 1977.

First concert: My Dad took me to see Jimmy Dean at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in the 1960's. It was before the Coliseum was built. The only thing I remember is Jimmy Dean singing his big hit "Big Bad John."

Favorite sports team: Phoenix Roadrunners minor league hockey. My dad took me to a game when I was in grade school, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a radio hockey play-by-play man. I used to take my cassette recorder and sit up in the rafters of the Coliseum and do play-by-play. It was great later in life to also take my son to Roadrunners games. Too bad the team just folded, I'll miss them. (Going to the Coyotes is fun, but they're not "my" team.)

Outside interests: My family and I are active in our church - Shiloh Community Church in Phoenix. Devin is a high school student at Scottsdale Christian Academy. He plays on the baseball, football, and basketball teams and sings in the choir. Obviously, we keep busy trying to go to all his events! We enjoy going to movies, sporting events, and long road trips. We like to vacation at the Beach Cottages in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. And I love to play catch, basketball, football with my son.


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