Child Life Specialist Judy Ross held her patient’s hand on the way into the operating room. She talked to him and didn’t let go until he fell asleep. “He was about to have a kidney transplant,” she says. “He was scared. Who wouldn’t be?”
Judy has provided comfort and compassion to her young patients at Children’s National Hospital for more than 30 years. She is part of a specialized team that helps families cope with the stress of being there. When Judy left the operating room that day, she updated her patient’s parents and let them know that she had been at his side until the surgeons took over.
When Judy first started at Children’s National, she worked with adolescents dealing with everything from cancer to eating disorders. “We had a rap group,” she says, “and a teen room with a pool table and arts and crafts. We helped kids through difficult situations. I learned a lot about humility and the power of listening.”
These days, “Miss Judy” works in the Heart and Kidney unit and cares for children of all ages. She plays with dolls, cars and medical toys with younger children. She performs with her puppet, Claudia. She helps kids answer questions such as, does a CAT scan involves a cat? Sometimes she talks with siblings about bereavement. She listens and addresses emotions and fears. “It’s about making sure that every child feels important,” Judy says. “In a medical setting it’s often all about the illness. At Children’s National, a child is always a child first.”
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