Carl Gilchrist, Gleaner Writer
ST ANN'S BAY, St Ann:
IT IS an established fact that happiness heals. So when Dr Suzan McLennon-Miguel, Civil Servant of the Year 2011-2012, conceptualised establishing 'Happy Rooms' in five hospitals across Jamaica, the idea was welcomed by the administrators.
On Saturday, St Ann's Bay Regional Hospital became the first recipient of Doc Sue's Happy Room when she cut the ribbon to officially open the facility at the institution.
Doc Sue, as Dr McLennon-Miguel has come to be known, is a veterinary specialist from the Veterinary Services Division of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, who decided to undertake the project as a condition of her award of Civil Servant of the Year.
Each year, the reigning Civil Servant of the Year has to conceptualise and implement a project that should have a positive impact on the society.
Having decided on the project, Doc Sue set out to refurbish whatever available space she could find on the children's ward at five public hospitals, in five regions across Jamaica. In the north (St Ann's Bay), south (Percy Junor), east (Port Maria), west (Savanna-la-Mar), and central Jamaica (Bustamante Children's).
It was estimated that the five rooms would cost half-a-million dollars each to set up, but the St Ann's Bay room ran up a cost of over $720,000. But, McLennon-Miguel said, it was well worth it, adding that she struggled for over a year to bring the project to fruition. She staged two fund-raising 'Friday Frizzles' at her office to bring in initial funding.
Last week Saturday, the Spanish Grain Store Limited, located in Newport West, was introduced as a Gold Sponsor for the St Ann's Bay project, with sales and marketing manager Allison Christie and sales supervisor Karen Watson journeying to the north coast for the grand opening.
There were several other sponsors, local and overseas, whose contributions helped to make the project a reality.
Juici Patties has been identified as a Gold Sponsor for the Percy Junor Hospital, while funding is still being sought to create the other three Happy Rooms.
The goal, McLennon-Miguel said, is to create a future of happy kids and, with the Happy Room, children can start dreaming of what they want to be in the future.
"While the doctors and nurses work on the body, the Happy Room is to work on the mind," Doc Sue said at the opening.
McLennon-Miguel said the inspiration to establish the rooms came from Dr Hunter 'Patch' Adams, whose work was chronicled in the movie Patch Adams.
Adams, she noted, dedicated his life to making children happy, using laughter.
"You'd be surprised how much laughter can do, we need to laugh more," she urged.
She said of the Happy Room: "It's more than a playroom, it's a place where you can share happy thoughts, play, learn new things, interact with each other, express anything and everything that has made you happy today."
Doc Sue's Happy Room comes equipped with a projector and screen, toys, board games, books, crayons, a tent, posters, which create a classroom atmosphere as they depict a wide range of topics including colours, shapes, animals, math, the solar system, days of the week, and more.
Chief executive officer for the hospital, Keith Richards, expressed appreciation that his institution was chosen as a beneficiary. He said the Happy Room will present the opportunity for shorter stays for patients on the paediatric ward as, with the Happy Room, they will now benefit from a holistic approach to the healing process.
Richards said the provision of the new facility represents a benchmark for the institution.
Meanwhile, Jamaica Civil Service Association representative for St Ann, Alexander Chambers, praised McLennon-Miguel, saying he was privileged to have had the services of the veterinarian over the years.
He urged the celebration of those who go the extra mile and said the occasion was an opportunity to celebrate the hard-working people in the civil service.
Clinical psychologist at the St Ann's Bay Regional Hospital, Dr Pearnell Bell, was excited at the prospect of kids using the Happy Room and said she would be making full use of the facility.
"Play is an integral part of children's development; it enhances the cognitive process," she noted. "Play significantly helps in the development of empathy and showing care for others. It also helps develop the decision-making and problem-solving skills. This is a brilliant concept. As a psychologist, I'm going to be using that room."
Senior medical officer at the hospital, Dr Nicole Dawkins, described the concept as "remarkable" and thanked Dr Sue and the Spanish Grain Store for making the project a possibility.
PHOTOS BY CARL GILCHRISTCAPTION: Dr Suzan McLennon-Miguel (4th right) about to cut the ribbon to officially open Doc Sue's Happy Room at St Ann's Bay Regional Hospital, assisted by Dr Anna Marie Woodham-Auden, paediatric consultant. Others in picture (from left) are Sister Keisha Bramwell, Dr Nicole Dawkins, senior medical officer; Samuel Bowen, regional programmes director National Housing Trust, Alexander Chambers, Jamaica Civil Service Association; Keith Richards, hospital CEO; Allison Christie and Karen Watson of sponsors Spanish Grain Store Limited.