GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — It was an unexpected turn that put Alex McCready in Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.
The cancer he had been treated for at 15 had returned. At 17 he needed a bone marrow transplant.
The bone marrow transplant would save the Sault Saint Marie teen’s life, but it also meant some long days in a room on the 9th floor of a hospital, far from home.
“I would count ceiling tiles or walk back and forth,” McCready said. “Once you get the bone marrow transplant, you’re locked down in that room for 20, 30 days.”
While the big things, like the skill of the doctors and nurses and the treatment provided at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, helped cure McCready, the little things mattered as well —like the surprise of his hospital room all decked out in green and white.
“I walked into the room and there was a big mural of the Breslin Center, Michigan, Michigan State playing on the court. I had a signed ball from Tom Izzo. I had a comforter, pillow and bed sheets. They really go all out,” McCready said.
For years, volunteers with the hospital’s Pediatric Oncology Resource Team have turned the cold, blank walls of treatment room into ‘dream rooms.’
Brenda Dykema and Debbie Knapp are part of dream team. They start by getting background on pediatric oncology patients.
“What do you like? What’s your favorite color? What’s your favorite sports team? What’s your hobbies?” Dykema said.
“We’ve done canopies. We did one room — all he liked to do is hunt and fish,” Knapp said.
From Sparty to Spider-Man, even the patient bathrooms get the dream room treatment.
The custom décor takes some of the edge off the physical and emotional effects of treatments.
“What we do is make the room a little more special for them. They are not allowed to leave their room until they’re quite into the process,” Dykema said. “It’s pretty exciting for them to come in and kind of take some of the worry and sadness out of being there.”
Knapp and Dykema figure they’ve done about 80 rooms in the last eight years.
There’s a lot of shopping involved. But as McCready discovered, there’s a lot of love too.
“They really are sweet, sweet people to volunteer their time like that,” McCready, now free of cancer and a senior at MSU, said.
Two thinks make the program work, volunteers and donations. To find out how you can get involved, go to spectrumhealth.org.