• Tue. Sep 27th, 2022

FCS Child Life alum helps patients through medical treatments – News

ByMadeleine J. Pierce

May 4, 2022

Christy Lange ’08, MS ’10, an alumnus of the Child Life Program in the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences, is currently the Facility Canine Program Coordinator at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston.

Lange began her time at Illinois State University as a student in the accounting department before becoming passionate about the Child Life program.

Christy Lange and Dexter’s twin day in February 2019.

Lange shared that she became interested in children’s lives because “I have a chronic illness myself and spent some time in hospitals in middle school and high school. I had never met a child specialist at that time. When I discovered the field in college, it was kind of this personal connection of, oh, I really see how that could have an impact. So that’s really what attracted me to the profession.

She had worked for about a year at a nonprofit organization in Chicago before realizing she wanted to be at the bedside as a child life specialist. For about seven years, Lange worked on an inpatient surgical trauma floor at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston. Around this time, the hospital decided it was possible to add a full-time dog program. Lange now leads this program.

Dexter, Lange’s “colleague animal handler”, just celebrated his third anniversary as an establishment dog. He is five years old now. He was born and raised with an organization called Canine Companions, which trains service dogs for people with disabilities. Dogs learn about 40 different commands to be able to help in any of these categories. A service dog may be able to retrieve a cell phone that has fallen from the ground, bring a cane to its human, or use a push plate to open doors for someone in a wheelchair.

“I don’t need him to do these tasks for me, but I can take the same training and really use it to help the children in the hospital. Sometimes I give him my badge so he can get up and open the doors for the kids, and they love it,” Lange said.

Christy Lange and Dexter play with their patient.

Dexter improves the patient experience in several ways. When Lange and Dexter visit a patient who has to get out of bed and walk after surgery, it may be more exciting for the patient to walk with the dog. It might even motivate the patient to recover faster. Dexter also knows how to play with children. For example, he can hold a bucket and children can put the toys in the bucket for him to retrieve. When patients are receiving treatments, Dexter lies next to them. The patient can focus on Dexter’s petting rather than the medical procedure.

“We provided support during a number of procedures. Dexter can stand up and snuggle them up, and they can just lean over and have the comfort of having him by their side through the process,” Lange said.

Left to right: Christy Lange and Dexter alongside Renee, MS, CCLS and Pilot. Pilot is also used in the same capacity as Lange and Dexter.

All jobs come with challenges, and Lange’s is no exception. Having more hours in the day would help: “There’s so much more I’d like to do, than there is time to do,” she explained, even having Pilot as a second dog. of the establishment. There are around 300 beds at Lange Hospital, and there are currently two dogs on staff. “The root of our program’s goals is to help children who are having difficulty with any component of their treatment or hospital stay. Knowing that I haven’t seen all those children who would have loved him, whom we could have helped, is difficult. So just balancing and prioritizing our schedule is the hardest part of my day. Lange hopes to continue to expand this program at his hospital so he can help more patients.

Would you like to know more about the child life program at the ISU? Visit the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences website for more information.