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Dec My Room

Family Matters - Winter 2012

Project helps transform patients’ hospital rooms

By Johnny Rigg

It all began with one room and one patient’s reaction.

When 11-year-old Kendall Plank’s friend was admitted to Texas Children’s Hospital (TCH) in Houston, she told her mother, Susan, that it would be nice if they could decorate his room for him.

Plank and her daughter knew the young boy was a fan of The University of Texas, so they quickly bought everything they could find. Before leaving, they showed the young patient where he’d be staying.

“When we saw the expression on his face, we realized that we needed to humanize these diseases and look at the patients,” Plank says.

Idea moves to MD Anderson

The program that began at TCH for bone marrow patients moved to MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital more than a year ago.

Dec My Room, which Plank subsequently founded, allows certified MD Anderson volunteers to personalize patients’ rooms. The items selected complement special likes and interests for the patients to enjoy during their stay and to take home when they leave.

Since the program began in 2007, Plank, along with her daughter and more than 85 volunteers, have decorated 400-plus patient rooms.

“Dec My Room volunteers have made it their mission to transform hospital rooms into special places where patients and families can find a little extra strength and comfort,” says Patrick Thompson, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine and one of the program’s medical advisors. “This unique and innovative program deeply touches the lives of some of the sickest children in Houston.

“Some patients enter the hospital knowing that they’ll spend 30 to 60 days on the transplant floor. Their hospital room will be their world, and they enter this world with an incredible amount of fear,” Thompson says.

The budget for decorating each room is around $300 and volunteers usually pair up and shop locally for the patient, says Kathryn Shamszad, program director of Child Life Services at MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital. The program is funded entirely by grants, donations and volunteer support.

“We’re also starting to decorate treatment rooms as a more permanent option for patients,” Plank says. “The program is running great. No problems at all. Everybody is so positive. We’re so blessed to give back like this.”

Plank’s daughter, Kendall, is now 16 years old and still heavily involved with Dec My Room.

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center