Play helps heal at OLOL Children's Hospital

Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - At just 2-years-old, Wrenley Leto knows how to doctor up a "booboo" on her doll and comfort her during a shot. It's something she's learned firsthand. The toddler has spent more time in the hospital in her 24 months alive than most adults do in their lifetime.

It started when she was 3-months-old when doctors at Our Lady of the Lake Children's hospital diagnosed her with hydrocephalus, or increased water on the brain.

"She had her first brain surgery then. They placed a shunt. She did pretty well, until she turned 1," said Wrenley's, mom Amanda Leto.

After her first birthday, Wrenley started having trouble eating and keeping food down, to the point where her small body wasn't getting the nutrition it needed to survive, so she went back to the Children's Hospital. A team of specialists diagnosed Wrenley with a myriad of allergies and digestive issues. It led to a lengthy hospital stay while they worked to help her.

"I don't know if there's a specialist that she has not seen yet," said pediatric gastroenterologist, Dr. Patrice Tyson.

However, not all the specialists were running tests or procedures. The Child Life Specialists at the Lake were working to make Wrenley's stay more comfortable. "Wrenley is a special little patient to me and her mom too because they unfortunately spend a lot of time with us," said Child Life Manager Sharon Westberry.

Westberry and her team have a unique job at the Children's Hospital. They do anything to make a child's hospital stay easier and less scary. That includes using teaching dolls to explain medical procedures, accompanying kids to the OR, or just playing with patients to make their day a little happier.

"A lot of this experience is about normalizing their hospitalization. What do kids typically do? They play at home. We don't want them to focus on the scary things that happen while they're in the hospital," said Westberry.

That makes everyone's job a little easier.

"I think it's simple, family support. It's very hard for parents who have cases or kids like this with these difficult cases who are in here not for a day or two, but sometimes weeks or months and they have other kids or other responsibilities, being near home really makes a big difference," said Tyson.

Wrenley now has a feeding tube and she's doing much better. However, she still has challenges ahead. Her family believes she's in the right place for her care. Wrenley isn't the Letos only child to need services from OLOL Children's Hospital. Her two older brothers both required advanced treatment, one for pediatric seizures and another for a severe staph infection.

"They know our family now. Just a personal relationship and it's truly a treasure. Now I can confidently trust my baby in their hands at the Lake and not worry," said Leto.

The family shared their story as a part the Children's Hospital annual Mediathon, a two-day fundraising event supporting the hospital. More information on that can be found here.

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