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Room makeovers for kids with lengthy hospital stays

March 7, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
Stark, bare walls. Strange surroundings. Long hospital stays are tough for everyone, but it can be especially hard on young patients. One group called Dec My Room is hoping to ease the pain for patients. Thursday some local kids got a big surprise.

In early February, 2-year-old Chloe Segura's family was walking in Riverside and was struck by a car. The accident killed Chloe's 5-year-old sister and seriously injured her mother. When Chloe came to Children's Hospital Los Angeles two weeks ago, she was very weak.

"My daughter has been through so much. From a perfect little girl, she wasn't talking, she wasn't walking, she lost everything," said her mother, Valerie Gutierrez.

To lift Chloe's spirits, a special group of volunteers are performing interior design therapy on her hospital room. The theme: Her favorite, Hello Kitty.

"And so each child will fill out a form, with their parents, and tell us what they like," said Susan Plank, founder of Dec My Room.

Plank says her group has decorated more than 500 hospital rooms. With a budget of $300, volunteers plaster the walls, cover the beds and fill their wagons with items that help patients pass long days of treatment.

That's something 11-year-old Josie Hull knows all about. She volunteers because she and her sister are formerly conjoined twins who basically lived in medical centers.

"I want to help children because I've been through hospitals," said Josie.

In another room, 8-year-old leukemia patient Carey Fisher of Rancho Cucamonga got a monster-truck makeover.

"It'll make every day more happy," said Fisher.

Healing is more than just physical. Numerous studies show that you can't ignore the emotional aspects, and getting a big psychological lift like this can go a long way in healing the patient and the family.

"They're so overwhelmed with their child being in the hospital and if we can do something as little as decorating their room, it's just so rewarding," said Plank.

When Chloe got back to her room, she couldn't believe her eyes. Her dad, Felix Segura, is incredibly thankful.

"Anything that puts a smile on her face, I'm grateful for it," said Felix. "And I know she is too."

Chloe has made such incredible progress at Children's Hospital's Acute Rehab Center that she's expected to go home earlier than planned.


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