The talkative toddler toyed with different colors, settling on a group of yellow, pink and white beads. She handed them, one-by-one, to her bead buddy and Lenox Hill Hospital’s new child life specialist, Stefani Tower, to thread onto the string.
“To the outside observer it can look like this is just a child making a bracelet,” Stefani said. “But, what we see, in addition, is it allows her in that activity to be the boss of what she is going to make that day, in a day that she might not have had a lot of choices.”
Stefani met Zainab before her surgery to treat a vascular malformation. It was her third surgery this year.
“Zainab was a little bit scared, but when she saw Stefani she was all better,” Shumaiela Qasim, Zainab’s mother, said.
The day after Zainab’s surgery, Stefani came to see her again as she recovered in the Department of Pediatrics at Lenox Hill Hospital. During the playful visit, Zainab needed a shot, so Stefani stuck around to hold her hand. Zainab’s mother held the other.
“We are always there to be an extra hand to hold, or supportive voice alongside the parent,” said Stefani, who told Zainab after the shot how brave she was.
Child life specialists like Stefani help children and their families process the information and challenges that come with their treatment. They do this through therapeutic play, diagnostic education, and activities that translate adult language to a child.
“We are all very excited to be able to work with her, our pediatric staff as well as our nursing staff and surgical staff,” said Dr. Marty Ellington, chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at Lenox Hill Hospital.
Stefani Tower is a mother of two. She earned her master’s degree in child life from Bank Street College of Education in New York City. Before that, she was a photographer and volunteer for children’s hospitals. . Her passion is to educate families about what they can do to ease the fears they have when their child needs medical attention.