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Adopt A Room provides space to heal

While Lizzie Bell recovered from a blood and marrow transplant this summer, she turned her Adopt A Room into her personal photo editing suite. 'It was my space,' she says. (Photo: Jim Bovin)

Even when you’ve been hospitalized countless times and you’re supported by a loving network like Lizzie Bell’s … even when you’re as tough and brave as Lizzie herself, there’s nothing easy about a blood and marrow transplant.

It’s a grueling and terrifying process. But thanks to several donors and the healing surroundings they’ve created, it’s a lot less scary for some young patients at University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital.

Adopt A Rooms are donor-funded, private, customizable rooms with special features designed to promote healing and help kids and their families cope during an intense time.

Nineteen-year-old Lizzie, who lives in Tucson, Ariz., was born with a rare form of anemia that prevents her bone marrow from making red blood cells. It necessitated twice-monthly blood transfusions. This year, a blood and marrow donor was found.

Her mother, Kathy Bell, recalls the moment their family stepped into Lizzie’s hospital room, an Adopt A Room, on July 15.

“You enter that room knowing you could live or die there. We got up on the floor, and she had a hard time getting off the elevator. She had to just kind of stop and process. And then we walk into the room, and she sees all the technology, and goes, ‘Oooh! Maybe this won’t be so bad!’

“It totally changed everything,” Bell says.

Each spacious room features three television screens; Internet and video-conferencing capability; adjustable lighting, music, and window treatments; changeable wall colors; and connectivity to the hospital’s GetWellNetwork — all designed to give young patients a sense of control in their lives. Each room also has a living area with a sofa, dining table, and computer to make it easier and more comfortable for families to stay.

Adopt A Room amenities are about more than just distraction, says Amy Feeder, a Child-Family Life specialist at Amplatz. “We see that, when kids have more control over their situation, they cope better — and that really helps promote healing,” she says.

Lizzie instantly felt at home in her room, which was adopted by John and Nancy Lindahl. “To be able to decide how I wanted the shades, what lights I wanted, all of that helped. I had no control over my body or much that was happening, so being able to have control over my environment, it was my space.”

A longtime photographer, Lizzie hopes to study fashion photography in college next year. Thanks to the large screens in her room, she was able to edit photos during her recovery and share her images with nurses, physicians, and visitors.

The Bells are deeply grateful to the donors who made Lizzie’s time at Amplatz as good as it could be. So good, in fact, that Lizzie admits she was reluctant to leave when she recovered from her transplant faster than expected — in just three weeks; usually six weeks is the minimum, Feeder says.

“It was so hard walking Lizzie into that room,” says Kathy Bell. “But the minute she saw it … if those donors could understand what that means for those kids … It’s life-giving.”

By Susan Maas

To learn more about sponsoring an Adopt A Room, contact Elizabeth Patty at patty@umn.edu or 612-625-6136.

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