Girl's generosity leads to healing space for teenage patients

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POSTED: Tuesday, August 6, 2013 - 5:00am

UPDATED: Tuesday, August 6, 2013 - 12:34pm

The new teen lounge at Our Lady of the Lake brought a lot of smiles, from former patients and hospital staff alike.

"We have, I have, been excited about this space for over ten years," said Sharon Wesberry, the hospital's child life manager. "And it's a dream that I've looked forward to for this population of kids a kids."

The lounge opened to a grand unveiling Monday. It has video games, a basketball arcade, art supplies, and a safe space for teens to get together without feeling as though they're in a hospital.

"If I was a patient here, I would definitely come in here," Marla Aronson stated. "I think it would be really cool."

But Aronson is not a patient; she is a benefactor.

"It makes me feel really good," she said of seeing her plan realized. "I just want the teens to feel really good about it. I hope they like it."

The lounge came about because of Aronson's bat mitzvah project. Included in her invitation to friends and family was a request to donate to the lounge on her behalf.

"I just wanted to raise enough," she said of her goal, "enough for the room to be what we wanted."

She ended up raising $10,000. The hospital had her come in a few times to help design it, because a 13-year-old would know best what teenagers would want during a difficult time.

"Our teens that come into the hospital definitely need a specific space for them to just be teenagers," Wesberry said.

"Yeah, I was really surprised," Aronson said of being included in the design process. "I think I got a lot of input into what I wanted."

Prior to Monday, there was no space set aside for teens. The teenage years are difficult enough without needing to be hospitalized, so Wesberry said that being able to lean on each other is important to the teenaged patients' emotional health.

"Whether it be the video games, or playing games and meeting other kids that are in the hospital, that's another part of it, is just socializing and being with other peers," she noted. "(Confining themselves to their rooms) says, 'oh, I thought I was the only teenager here in the hospital.' So knowing that they're not the only ones that are going through the same experience that they have." 

"It was really important for me to do this," Aronson added, "because I've always cared for people my age. And if I was a patient here, I would want to have my own space, and be able to be with other people my age."

Our Lady of the Lake has the largest children's hospital is Louisiana. It saw 1,300 teens for inpatient visits in 2012, and they came from 61 of Louisiana's 64 parishes.

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