Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital Raising Funds to Expand Pain Management Care

You’d think children are made of rubber the way they bounce back from falls and scrapes.

For sick kids and those with medical issues, life can be much less carefree.

Managing pain is an especially important priority when treating children. They don’t always know how to express what they’re feeling and the resulting fear and anxiety can greatly diminish their quality of life.

The pain and palliative care program at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital helps to address the pain of children and adolescents. The program has been up and running for about one year and a recent gala helped raise funds to expand services. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan was a sponsor of the gala.

The reasons children need pain management and palliative care are varied. It could be as simple as helping small children remain still during an MRI procedure to making a child with a chronic illness comfortable and happy. Palliative care can be utilized to help ease stress, anxiety and fear. Each case is different and each child and family work with a team of specialists to determine the level of care that is right for them.

“It’s about relieving their pain for everyday life so that every day can be lived with the best quality of life,” said Tamara VanderArk-Potter, director of communications and marketing for the Spectrum Health Foundation and the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital Foundation.

Brad Kaufmann is the foundation’s director of annual giving. He points to the story of Miguel, a 13-year-old patient born with a blistering skin condition called epidermolysis hyperkeratosis (EHK). There is no cure for the condition, which presents at birth. Miguel is missing the protection provided by normal skin and risks constant dehydration and infections.

Before the program at Helen DeVos, Miguel needed to travel to Chicago for treatment every six weeks. Now, he can receive pain therapy closer to home, which reduces the amount of time he has to spend away from school, something that’s very important to him.

“The treatment is allowing Miguel to go to school,” Kaufmann said.

As the Grand Rapids children’s hospital continues to grow as a world-class place to receive care, Kaufmann said patient cases will only get more medically complex. Already, patients have opted to receive care here when in the past, renowned facilities such as St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital or the Cleveland Clinic would have been their only resort.

As the children they see present with more and more difficult cases, Kaufmann said having a pain and palliative care program to accommodate and treat them will only become more important. Improving their quality of life is always the first priority, he said.

“It could be six years of treating them and making life as positive and full as best they can with the limits of what their afflictions will allow,” Kaufmann said.

Providing families with comprehensive pain and palliative care in West Michigan allows them to stay closer to home, which can serve to retain a sense of normalcy for kids facing sometimes long and difficult diagnoses.

If you’d like to make a donation to the pain and palliative care program at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, you may do so here.

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Photo credit: Steven Depolo

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