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From Patient to Blueprint

Annual Report - Winter 2012

A young adult leukemia survivor, Laura
Lemburg (right) is also a dedicated volunteer.
One evening a week, she gives hope to other
young adult patients like Ashton Cryer, who
received a stem cell transplant.
Photo: John Everett

Designers listen 
to end users

By Sara Farris

If you had to design a space that appealed to a 5-year-old as well as a 25-year-old, what would it look like?

That is exactly the question architects, patients, volunteers and parents have worked to answer for the past year about the renovation of MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital.

Along the way, they’ve learned that having access to an abundance of electrical outlets is as important as hot coffee. Primary colors aren’t as kid-friendly as originally thought.

Inpatient rooms should be equipped with more storage, and sicker patients want a quiet space to wait separate from healthier patients. In addition, young adults want their own unique area to hang out with peers.

Architects partnered with parents and patients to get the new pediatric floor design right, meeting with the hospital’s Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Advisory Council and Family Advisory Council to get feedback on plans and concepts.

Greg Alquiza found himself surrounded with children's
toys and books when he was diagnosed with lymphoma, 
but longed to see survivor stories of other young adults
like himself. Now, he's studying to become a pharmacist
and hopes to specialize in oncology pharmacy.
Photo: John Everett

A bedside perspective

Lymphoma survivor Greg Alquiza, 25, voiced his suggestions for the new pediatric inpatient floor to architects at the AYA Advisory Council meeting in June 2011.

“For me, I wanted to see more inspiring stories on the walls about survivors my age,” Alquiza says. “It’s also important to have creative ceiling décor in the rooms and large artistic structures around the hospital that give patients something else to think about besides their condition.”

“I think it’s important for us to be a part of the process because we’ve been there and know what patients need most,” says Laura Lemburg, a young adult leukemia survivor on the council. “The architects are supportive and interested in what we have to say. They’ve done a good job considering the kids and young adults alike.”

“It’s great that we get to have input on the design,” Alquiza says. “The hospital isn’t really inviting on its own for kids, but if you can make that space more comfortable and appealing, then it becomes a part of the healing process. That’s big.”

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