Unexpected Puppetry

 

 

 

 

 

 

When working in a hospital setting it is common to focus on the medical aspect of the child. How they are physically, mentally, and emotionally handling their diagnosis and their treatment. However, coming to the clinic often affects more than just the child medically. They are affected socially as well. The missed school time, the inability to play sports, the feeling different can be a heavy burden to school age children. While most oncology children have the loss of hair and other physical changes to make them different, many children with chronic diseases have more subtle changes. It is the subtle differences and the longevity of their treatment that may affect these children for their whole lives. For the chronic diagnosis, such as blood disorders, the child must come to clinic every month for transfusions. Depending on the severity of their illness, they may not be able to play contact sports, may tire easily, even end up in the hospital frequently for pain or complications. As these children grow the feeling of being different can grow as well. At no time is this more apparent than in middle school. Middle school can be a rough time for any child, let alone a child who may medically feel like an outcast. This showed itself the other day when a thirteen year old boy with a chronic blood disorder came in. He often is talkative and likes to build skate ramps, or show off his drawing skills, before he settles into an iPad game or a movie. This time he was fairly quiet and unsure what he wanted to do. After going through a few choices i suggested making a puppet. I thought he would say no to this, as he is thirteen, but he jumped at the choice. I gave him a cloth puppet and explained all the materials he could use to decorate it. He said almost immediately he wanted to make a stage and put on a puppet show. A puppet show of a nerd and a bully. While creating these puppets, he said he wanted the play to be about a nerd who beats up a bully.

 

 

 

 

 

 

He completed the puppets and the stage, but became shy about putting on the show as he now had an audience. Having recent experience with middle school bullying I put on a short play for him asking him to prompt me along the way. What followed was an open tale discussion about bully’s and being bullied. While this play did not have anything to do directly with his medical condition, being aware of his social predicaments will help us to treat the whole child and not just the physical. In the end he asked that the puppets and stage remained at the clinic for others to play with.