Dr. Chuck: Making a Difference One Room at a Time
Writer / Janelle Morrison
A visit or stay in a hospital tends to be a stressful and undesirable visit for any adult, and the affect upon a child can be even more traumatic. When a child expresses their discomfort by crying or acting out, it not only raises the child’s level of anxiety but also is distressing to the parent(s), caregivers and attending staff who is attempting treatment.
There are a plethora of studies available that show how Distraction Therapy can reduce pain and therefore reduces the patients discomfort throughout the necessary procedure.
At the invitation of Dr. Charles (Chuck) Dietzen, I recently made a few trips to the Riley Hospital for Children to visit Dr. Dietzen’s wing specifically and to learn more about a premiere project focusing on a revolutionary method of Distraction Therapy that is currently underway in the Pediatric Oncology Rehabilitation unit.
“The old adage that ‘Coincidence is when God winks’ is my favorite way of explaining why people meet at the time that they do,” Dr. Dietzen explained. “I met the artist Jim Nash, whose company has partnered with us on this project, through a mutual friend. I was told that I needed to meet Jim and check out what his company Dreamakür was doing in other areas of the country.
“I saw the potential for really great synergy and contacted Jim about the vision that I had for our unit at Riley. I had come back to Riley Hospital for Children to build a world-class pediatric rehab center, and utilizing my global connections that I’ve built over the last several years, make our unit the premier global center where people in our industry can learn to care for children patients all over the world. We have an outstanding staff who are developing programs and implementing these programs here at Riley.”
It is Dr. Dietzen’s goal to transform the sparsely decorated and out-of-date wing that his patients are currently housed in into a world-class, revitalizing and magical unit for his patients to recover and rebuild their lives in.
“Visual Distraction Therapy incorporated with the sensory integration component of therapy that we do in rehab is what we are all excited about,” Dr. Dietzen expressed. “We are limited on space, and we want to create a better sense of community for our kids and get them out of their patient rooms. We need to enhance the hallways and common areas in addition to the therapy rooms. What makes our concept so unique is that we want to make the walls interactive.”
The age range of patients that Dr. Dietzen and his staff work with spans from infant age to 18 years old. Their challenge was to create something that would benefit all ages and is beneficial to patients’ rehabilitation therapy.
“Part of the therapy is ‘cause and effect,’ so for example having a child turning the mural’s street lights on and off, making the wheels turn or making the butterflies’ wings flap are important cognitive skills, and it motivates the child to use their fine and gross motor skills,” Dr. Dietzen emphasized. “It becomes an active part of the child’s therapy.”
During visits back to the unit, I was able to see the first of hopefully many installations in the unit’s main entry hallway. The once drab and dreary hallway had been transformed into a whimsical wonderland, portraying children of all ages and abilities, playing in parks, competing in sports and even enjoying a peppermint lollipop that was anointed with real peppermint oil to increase alertness and ease tension upon smelling it. The images show children who have learned to overcome their challenges and reengage with life.
“The work has only just begun,” Dr. Dietzen said. “We currently have fireworks in our mural, and we are going to install LED lights so that they look as though they are going off into the sky. Having worked with this program for several years, I am thrilled to have the EPIC Program through Purdue University come out and help us design and build out these special functions into our murals.
“The EPIC program is an outstanding elective program for engineering college students that focuses on helping us, so that we can help children with disabilities. They have done some really cool stuff for us in other places, and we are excited to have them on board with us for this project. These engineering students will take their mechanical, biomedical, electrical and civil engineering degrees and apply their knowledge and creativity to this project.
“Our unit will be the first of its kind globally,” Dr. Dietzen said. “We have done sensory integration walls in the past, but we hand painted them, limiting us on what we could do with them. Now, thanks to Jim Nash and his company, we are able to take images that are created on a computer and apply them to a wall, giving us nearly unlimited potential to take this Visual Distraction Therapy and turn it into a multi-sensory experience for a child who is recovering, regardless of their illness and or injury.”
The rooms that Dr. Dietzen would like to see receive these treatments would include all of their therapy rooms and the common areas, including the connecting hallways. The cost to wrap a room is approximately $15,000. Nash’s company, Dreamakür, has donated $32,000 to date, and they have wrapped the entry hallway, main corridor intersection and supporting columns. The prize jewel of the project so far is the custom-designed “Wheel-In Movie Theatre” that is a mockup of an old drive-in theatre but depicts children cruising in their wheelchairs to enjoy their favorite flicks and movie treats.
I met with the artist behind these visions, Jim Nash, who graciously flew in to meet with me and share his motivation to create this beautiful imagery.
“I want to spread and offer these services to hospitals all over the country,” Nash humbly explained. “I enjoy working with Dr. Chuck. He’s a very special guy that does a lot of great things for people, and it was an honor to meet him and work with him.
“I started out as a graphic designer here in Indianapolis, near Whitestown, Indiana. My boss moved to Pittsburgh to start a new company, Endograph, in 1992, and I moved out there to be a part of that. Three years ago, we started Dreamakür which specializes in hospital imagery.”
Nash’s calling became clear to him after being hired to transform a patient room in the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh who had originally requested walls decals and something to cover the one window that looked out onto a graveyard.
The end result was that Nash had created a translucent film that would wrap the room, covering but not extinguishing the natural light, and had created a Martian theme simulating the colors and visions of Mars. This escalated into Nash being commissioned to completing 65 rooms, paid for by fundraising and their local philanthropic community.
The murals are guaranteed and have a 10-year warranty. Each installation is a floor-to-ceiling application that is completely covered with an overlaminate. All of the materials are eco-friendly and protect the inks and colors from sterilization and use of chlorine, alcohol and other cleaning compounds.
“It makes me feel good to be able to do something like this, and I believe that it is my purpose in life,” Nash concluded. “When I am able to witness a child’s frown turn upside down because of something that I was able to create for them, it means the world to me.”
Dr. Dietzen and his staff gratefully acknowledged the organizations that they are currently working with to garner financial support and awareness of this remarkable undertaking. They credit their partnerships with Dreamakür, the EPIC Program and the Riley Children’s Foundation where there is an established Rehab Fund that supports Dr. Dietzen’s unit for the incoming support and interest is that being generated surrounding their wing’s transportation into a world-class center. He also credited the Rotary Club of Carmel for their support and advocacy.
The Rotary Club of Carmel’s president Brian G. Poindexter spoke about the Rotary’s assistance to Dr. Dietzen’s project. “I am very proud to call myself a Rotarian,” Poindexter said. “All across the world, Rotarians, with the support of the Rotary Foundation, work together to save young lives and improve children’s health. The Rotary Foundation enables Rotarians to advance world understanding, goodwill and peace through the improvement of health, the support of education and the alleviation of poverty.
“Recently, I had the great fortune to make the acquaintance of Dr. Chuck Dietzen. Dr. Dietzen has dedicated his professional life to treating and caring for the most vulnerable in our midst. He has touched lives not only at Riley Children’s Hospital but also at numerous places across the world. The Rotary Club of Carmel looks forward to assisting Dr. Dietzen in his work and would urge other Rotarians to join in our efforts.”