Tiffany Adams has gotten used to the drive from Norfolk to Richmond. So have her three children. They make the trip regularly so the youngest, Annabelle, can receive care at CHoR.
Annabelle sees specialists in multiple service lines, including cardiology, endocrinology, gastroenterology, nephrology, pulmonology and surgery. Appointments are coordinated and scheduled together as often as possible, so it’s not unusual for the family to have multiple appointments in one day.
When the Pavilion opened in 2016, a child life specialist told Tiffany about one of its great features, the RMHC Sibling Center. The Sibling Center is designed to reduce stress on the entire family by providing a safe and fun environment for brothers and sisters so parents can give their undivided attention to the child receiving medical care.
“It’s allowed us to focus, get training and education, and speak with our doctors without interruptions,” said Tiffany. “It also gives us the flexibility to take afternoon appointments without having to rush back home.”
Not only is it a great convenience for parents, but kids love it too! Annabelle’s big brothers, Joshua (10) and JJ (8), have been coming to the Sibling Center about once a month during the school year and three or four times a month in the summer. The boys love to play with different toys and games than they have at home. Some of their favorites are the Rubik’s Cube, iPad, stacking cups and Legos.
René Moss, site director, and her team at the Sibling Center have advanced degrees in child development, education or related fields. They encourage reading, help siblings with their homework, and work with kids on crafts, projects and educational activities – another help for parents who may be strapped for time.
When they have the space, the Sibling Center team welcomes siblings of patients in our inpatient settings as well. The Adams family was able to take advantage of this option during Annabelle’s recent hospitalization.
“It’s nice because the kids don’t have to be stuck in the hospital all day,” added Tiffany. “Also, with the flu-related visitation restrictions in place right now, it’s allowing me to be in the hospital because the boys have a place to be. Without the Sibling Center, we would be hanging out at the Ronald McDonald House and I’d be available if the doctors needed me.”
During nice weather, Joshua and JJ like to go outside on the Sky Terrace with their new friends and Sibling Center staff. They get to do obstacle courses, blow bubbles, look for RVA Rocks and just be kids. They help out too, stacking chairs and sweeping floors at the end of the day, but they’re primarily focused on education and a whole lot of fun.
“Remember when the paper airplane landed in the fish tank? That was awesome,” laughed JJ.
The RMHC Sibling Center is a partnership with Ronald McDonald House Charities of Richmond who recruit and train volunteers, and collect materials for use in the Center. It is the first RMHC partnership of its kind in the country. In addition to the RMHC House on Monument Avenue, and RMHC Family Sleep Rooms within hospital walls, the RMHC Sibling Center allows families to focus on the child receiving care while their brothers and sisters can remain engaged with hands-on activities.