Hospitals in the Eyes of a Mother, and a Cancer Patient

This article contains a few Filipino words from the interviewees but their message can be understood nevertheless.

In this article, narratives of two women who had experiences in hospital environments were shared: one is a mother of a 3-year old, and the second was a patient herself. (1) Jessa Roque-Medina was an intern for Philippine General Hospital and mother of Saab, a three-year-old who was diagnosed with Billary Atresia. On the other hand, (2) Irish Jain, a 20-year-old who had been cancer-free for 3 years now. 

It is not surprising information that spaces inside a hospital, in general, feel cold. It is mainly due to the blank walls and eerie silence that fills most spaces. After spending some time inside hospitals due to chemotherapy and frequent checkups, Irish confessed that there was a time that she had been scared to go to a hospital. She feels like someone’s giving a death sentence somewhere whenever she goes inside, and that thought makes her uncomfortable. Even the seats that lined up on both sides of the corridor—where she had to sit for about 2 hours to see her doctor—add to her growing discomfort as those seats become chilly over time and they make your back ache.

Having gone to India for 18 months for a liver transplant for Saab, Mrs. Medina shared that whenever they are en-route to the hospital from the hotel, as soon as Saab sees the facade of the hospital, she starts to cry. She observed that her three-year-old daughter had developed “trauma sa mga taong naka-scrub suits.” Recently, she noticed that Saab’s reacting differently whenever she is enclosed with a few people in a room (i.e Mrs. Medina, Saab, and someone unfamiliar). Currently, in Manila, Saab starts to plead to her mom to go home whenever she sees the building of the National Kidney Transplant Institute (NKTI). Even as a three-year old, Saab had learned to associate pain to hospitals and people wearing white, but it’s still early to know if it had other impacts on her mental health too.

Private and Public

Although hospitals, in general, feel unwelcoming, unfortunately, as Mrs. Medina concluded, “It always goes and boils down to budget. How much are you willing to pay; that is the exact treatment you’ll get—not medical—pero that’s the exact thing you will get in a hospital.” As a former intern at PGH, she witnessed how beds, beddings, and air conditioners are always inadequate to the crowd of people wanting to get treated. But, she is aware that the environment isn’t exactly the main priority for public hospitals. 

Irish once had a check-up at Philippine Children’s Medical Center last 2017, and one of the reasons why she did not have her chemotherapy there was because of the environment. She described that the hospital is currently under renovation during that time, and the building looks so old. The walls were not blank white walls, but they do not have paint at all. The doctors in the hospital do not have their personal clinics; they were inside a huge room, and the only thing that separates them is curtains. The patients of other doctors were visible, and once it’s your turn, you had to check every curtain to look for your doctor. Although she liked her doctor at PCMC, the environment itself did not make her feel that she can get treated well. Hence, she chose Mary Mediatrix Medical Center, a private hospital near her home, to receive chemotherapy.

Both women mentioned that they feel that they are well-taken care of if they are in a private hospital, but they still feel uneasy inside a hospital.

Coping Up

No one wants to go to a hospital, or even spent a lot of time there, but that is neither an excuse nor a reason to not design an environment that eases psychological tension for patients and their family. 

Saab and her parents had come to the point where they spent six months straight in the hospital in India, and Mrs. Medina suggests that having rooms designed with a homey feeling would be helpful. She also mentioned that accent walls are great additions too. In the past,  Mrs. Medina had her check-ups at St. Luke’s Medical Center – Global City and she compared it to a 5-star hotel. Almost everything feels like a hotel, from the chandeliers to the consultation areas of the doctors. But underneath these un-hospital-like environments that make the spaces feel less traumatizing is the cost of treatment. “Siyempre they cannot give a first-class and world-class treatment kapag hindi enough ang pumapasok na income,” she stated.

Having spent time in a hospital when she was 17 years old, Irish highlights the importance of community to her well-being. She did her treatment at a private hospital owned by Catholics (which is good for her because she’s a Catholic as well), and because of the tight-knit religious community, she became close with the nurses. But she suggests having a common room wherein patients can interact and support one another in each other’s healing journeys. Also, the feeling of belongingness has a huge positive impact on a person’s overall well-being. 

Irish described how ecstatic she is whenever she is in UST hospital for her regular checkup, especially if it’s the holiday season. The lobby of the said hospital is adorned with fairy lights and other Christmas decors. She mentioned that the feeling itself inside the hospital changes when it’s nearing Christmas. When it’s not the holiday season, Irish is delighted by all the paintings that hung on every wall. “Dito kasi sa [hospital sa] Lipa, minsan mo lang makikita [‘yung mga painting] tapos sa pediatrics pa siya and luckily, 17 pa lang naman ako nung nagka-cancer, so dun ako sa pediatrics.” she shared.

The Lesser It Feels Like A Hospital, The Better

Watching how her three-year-old daughter developed a trauma after being in hospitals most of the time, Mrs. Medina stated, “The lesser it looks like a hospital, the lesser traumatizing it would be [and] the lesser fearful it would be.” Interestingly, even Irish reached the same conclusion, “[Basically] parang lahat na makakabawas na feeling na you’re in the hospital. Kasi may common na feeling kayo kapag nasa hospital. It is sullen. Parang feel mo lahat ng tao dun may problema. Pero kunwari [kapag] may library, may magandang cafe, parang hindi mo masyadong feel [na nasa hospital ka].” 

Saab is still very young to determine how her experiences in hospitals affected her mental health. On the other hand, Irish had been scared of going to a hospital for some time because it would remind her of her breakdowns— the moment when she learned that she has cancer. Fortunately, Irish began to heal, especially when the environment of the hospital became joyful due to the Christmas decorations. 

The environment has a huge impact on one’s well-being. It can make you feel that you are being sentenced to death, or it can uplift your spirit and can ease a bit of tension that you are feeling. It makes a huge difference being in an environment that makes you feel that you are welcomed, and it doesn’t add to the agony that you are feeling but still allows you to feel joy alongside the distress.

Interview with a Former Cancer Patient

Irish Jain, 20, is cancer-free for three-years now and I had the opportunity to ask her questions that I am curious about.

In movies, people who were cured of an illness, they announced that, “From now on, I’m gonna live life with no regrets!” and so I asked her if that was how she felt when her doctor announced that she was cancer free. And her answer went something like this:

“When I became cancer-free, I didn’t go like “I want to go skydiving!” instead, I just went back to normal. From home-schooling, I went back to school a month after. I think the only thing that changed in me was I know what my priorities are now.

Even if I got lots of homework, I do not stress myself so much on it or stay up late all night just to finish it. Instead, I prioritize my health and sleep early. Because when I was literally in a life-and-death situation, the thoughts that crossed my mind weren’t school or academic work, its my family and friends.

And it’s something that I feel is super important to share to everyone who’s going through finals or midterms right now. Academic work is not the end goal of life. There is so much more to life than school or university. Hence, please take breaks and take time to do something that you really want and not something that someone has assumed that it was important in YOUR life.

Also, if I looked back on my year 2019, what I remembered was not the deadlines but rather, when I was volunteering, writing, reading, and playing board games with my community and my family. This goes to show what my priorities are and even though the academic workload is heavy these past few days, I remembered what Irish had shared to me and I’ll just be so so grateful that I am living, breathing, and stealing some free time for myself, to live.

Why Do We Love Being In Nature?

We, Filipinos, are currently facing various issues right now aside from the pandemic. This carrd contains information, actionables, and organizations where you can donate to help. Thank you very much!

https://parasapinas.carrd.co/


selective photo of a girl holding bubbles
© Leo Rivas | Unsplash

James Corner, a landscape architect, told designer Ingrid Fetell Lee that landscape is more about how we feel, “It’s a whole host of things that will never show up in a photograph. Plants. Scents. Colors. The effects of light and shadow. Water. The sounds of water. Ambient humidity. Texture. Temperature. The effects of mist. The concentration of weather effects and atmospheres… These things are not obvious but they are very powerful and they bring joy.” Ingrid Fetell Lee added, “Being in nature liberates our senses.”

Reading the above statements from the book Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness created an AHA! moment in my brain. So that is why we love being in nature or be surrounded by nature because it is a sensory-rich environment.

In a TED talk entitled Designing for the Five Senses, designer Jinsop Lee used to ask himself “why is sex is so damn good?“. He found the answer when he used the 5-senses graph.

The perfect experience would be a 10•10•10•10•10. Doing sex uses all of the senses hence, it is considered a pleasurable experience.

I started to look for other examples and concluded why eating, swimming, and traveling are enjoyable experiences for almost everyone– because we actively use our five senses when doing these activities. The same goes when being in nature. These activities lead to sensorial richness which is vital to healthy neural development.

Reversible Destiny Lofts, an amazing architectural work designed with the belief that we can prevent death if we constantly engage in a stimulating environment. In these lofts, corners are curved, floors have lumps everywhere and they are never flat, and bright, vivid colors everywhere. Architect Arakawa and poet Madeline Gins, designers of Reversible Destiny Lofts, believed that the comfort given by modem buildings lead us to an early death. Without enough activity for all of our senses, they push us to a stupor and causing us to say goodbye to the world at an early age.

Reversible Destiny Lofts is an extreme example of sensorial richness but there are still tons of ways wherein we can feed our deprived-senses. Like I mentioned eating, just look at mukbang blogs on YouTube. They eat really well plus, they sound well. When I’m eating noodles, I make slurping sounds to add up to my eating experience.

Designer Ingrid Lee writes, “A sparse environment acts as an anesthetic, numbing our senses and emotions. The abundance of aesthetic does the opposite. It wakes the senses up. It brings us to life.”

 

References:

Lee, I. F. (2018). Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness. Little, Brown Spark.

TED. (2013, August 6). Design for All 5 Senses [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N6wjC0sxD2o&t=4s

 

Using Game Principles to Design Spaces and Products

Yuri Zaitsev mentioned in his talk entitled “Game Principle To Design Products For Fun” that there are several types of fun in a game. One of them is fellowship- the sense of community in a game. In other words, players working together towards the same goal.

I have been playing Working at a Pizza Place for an hour or less for a few days now. In this game, there are roles such as the manager, cashier, cook, pizza boxer, delivery, and supplier. Each role has a specific job. Any player can choose and change their role whenever they wanted.

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You will be playing this game in real-time with other 11 players or less. Sometimes, some players will not do their jobs and just be idle but, thank Heavens, some players do their jobs. Altogether, everyone works well.

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The main reason why I am so hooked at this game is that I feel that I have a purpose. In the game, everyone’s job is crucial similar to a real-life pizza place. The game makes you feel that what you are doing has a purpose because you are not working only for your gain. Other players in the server rely on you as well so that they could properly do their jobs too.

Fellowship is the type of fun that the designer of Working at a Pizza Place has incorporated in the game. I am someone who volunteers especially if it is something related to community building. Probably why I find WAAPP absolutely fun.

Moreover, once I had learned the different types of fun in a game, I began to look for examples in the real-world that incorporate the various types of fun.

But before that, here are the other types of fun that I learned from Yuri Zaitsev:

● Narrative – has a story to tell
● Sensation – uses various senses
● Fantasy – turns on your imagination
● Challenge – learning a new skill
● Discovery – discovering something new
● Expression
● Abnegation – a sense of peace or real one

An example is the Adventure Series™.

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Pirate Adventure Theme. Source: GE Healthcare

Seeing first-hand how a child reacted to seeing his work, the MRI Scanner, like one big scary machine, prompted designer Doug Dietz to design the MRI suit in a human-centered way.

The Adventure Series™ incorporated the fantasy and narrative types of fun in its design. Kids enter the room and spend their session inside like they are the main character of a fantasy book. Operators follow a script that they need to narrate to pediatric patients throughout the session. Fantastical elements are painted from the walls, floor, ceiling, and even the MRI Scanner itself. Doug Dietz and his team were able to make the MRI session for young patients fun and memorable instead of something dreadful and traumatizing to some.

80% of pediatric patients sedated before to only 2 patients after the first year of Adventure Series™.

IMPOSSIBLE LIST

The Impossible List is similar to a bucket list. But instead of just ticking off something after you’ve accomplished it, you are encouraged to go further. For example, you wrote ‘Study Korean for a month’. Once you have accomplished it, you are recommended to go beyond your previous goal like, ‘Study Korean for 3 Months’ or ‘Translate a clip from a Kdrama’.

I want to publish this in public so I could have some accountability and encourage others to do so! I will continue to iterate this list and add more daring and bolder activities as I go farther in this journey. Moreover, it’s thrilling to just think how this list will improve in the following years.

photo-1496449903678-68ddcb189a24
YAS DO IT! Source: Unsplash | Austin Chan

I am grateful to UnjadedJade for sharing this and sharing her impossible list as well.

Professional/Creative Goals

Create a website (you are looking at it right now- Completed June 2019)
● Publish 100 blog posts
Start an account on Behance (Completed May 2020)
● Publish 50 works
● Get 50k views
Create a Youtube channel for crafting and crocheting.
Create a website for curated design content. (Completed July 2020)
● Publish 100 blog posts
Publish a short story. (September 2020)
Intern for a design company.
Interview various design professionals for an article.
Get my essay/article featured in a magazine/newspaper.
Start a business.
Publish a non-fiction book.

Skill Goals

Enter Taiwan International Student Design Contest
Learn Korean for a month (Completed June 2020)
● Translate a song
● Translate a Running Man clip
● Translate a whole Running Man episode
Complete a TESDA Course on
● Mechatronics
● Instrumation
● Web Development
● Technical Drafting
● Electronics
Learn Basic HTML (Completed December 2019)
●Learn CSS
Teach a group of people how to draw.
Learn to do pottery.
Learn how to surf.
Donate handmade crafts to other people. (Completed June 2020)
● Donate 100 hand-crafted notebooks out of used paper

Health/Fitness Goals

Practice Intermittent Fasting for 3 Months
Run 5k
Subscribe to a gym membership.
Go hiking.

Travel Goals

Visit Fuji Kindergarten in Japan.
Live abroad for 3 months or more.
Live in any island in the Philippines except Luzon for a month.
Visit all the provinces of the Philippines.
Visit the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Complex.
Visit Halden Prison in Norway.

Life Goals

Volunteer for different causes (continuous)
Work for/ Run a charity.