Child Life staff member Michelle Chambers offers children a space where they can play while getting well.
Child Life staff member Michelle Chambers offers children a space where they can play while getting well.
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People of the U: Michelle Chambers

Published on Monday, October 7, 2019

By: Annie Oeth, aoeth@umc.edu

Children in cartoon-character pajamas busily play with board games and doll houses, forgetting for a moment their medical conditions. It’s a scene that happens regularly under the watchful eye of Children’s of Mississippi Child Life staff member Michelle Chambers.

The activity room on the children’s hospital’s third floor is where Chambers makes sure that every child being treated in hematology and oncology has a space where they can enjoy childhood while getting well.

“At the end of the day, if we have touched somebody’s life and helped them, then this is all worthwhile,” Chambers said.

Chambers, an alumna of Wingfield High in Jackson, Hinds Community College and Alcorn State University, joined UMMC just two weeks before the opening of Batson Children’s Hospital in 1997.

“Batson had more floors than the previous children’s hospital area, so there were openings,” she said. “I applied and started working in Child Life.”

Twenty-two years later, Chambers has touched countless lives, helping patients and their families understand and cope with treatments for conditions including cancer and sickle cell anemia.

“When patients and their family members come back to visit, that is really special to us,” she said.

As hematology and oncology patients often have frequent hospital visits, friendships can form between patient families and Child Life staff members.

“I’ve been to picnics, birthday parties, graduations and baby showers of former patients,” she said. “We become like members of the family.”

What Chambers and her Child Life colleagues provide to patients and their families “is invaluable,” said Dr. Anderson Collier, medical director of Children’s of Mississippi’s Children’s Cancer Center. “Many times, when I am going to check on a patient, I can find them doing activities with Child Life, which helps them feel better and helps their family, too.”

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