By Rachael Moore
Being stuck in a hospital is taxing for anyone. But it can be especially hard for a young child.
Lisa and Peter McNamara of Westfield know all about that. So on Wednesday, they dedicated Liam’s Room at Goryeb Children’s Hospital in Morristown.
Named for their late son, who died in 2007 at the age of 16 months, the cheery space is meant to help children feel more comfortable while being treated for chronic or life-limiting illnesses.
It’s modeled after a room opened by the McNamaras in 2009 at Summit’s Overlook Hospital. More than 100 children and their families have used Liam’s Room there.
“It means so much to me, and it’s amazing to see my son’s name continue on in such a special way,” Lisa McNamara said on Wednesday. She was accompanied by her 14-year-old son Trevor, who attends the Morristown Beard School.
They anticipate more than 30 families can benefit from Liam’s Room at Goryeb, which is part of Morristown Medical Center.
Photos by Rachael Moore. Please click icon for captions.
The room’s home-like atmosphere includes a mini-fridge, a big-screen television, video games, pull-out beds, plenty of drawer space, and a finished bathroom.
These amenities also are intended to help patients’ families feel less overwhelmed.
“What a gift it’s been to be able to endure our stay here in a place that makes us feel so at home,” reads one online testimonial about Liam’s Room at Overlook.
“The room was paradise and a blessing,” reads another.
For the McNamaras, who established a nonprofit called Liam’s Room, this truly has been a family affair. They met with an architect to plan a room that was inviting while keeping standard hospital necessities intact. Trevor even helped paint the clouds on the bathroom mural at Goryeb.
But Liam’s Room is more than decorations. It reflects an emerging field known as pediatric palliative care, which focuses on the spiritual and psychosocial well being of the patient and family members, said Dr. Colin O’Reilly.
“It is all about improving the quality of life for the whole family,” he said.
The McNamaras first heard the term pediatric palliative care during one of Liam’s last hospital stays, and it stuck with them. Their infant, a twin, was born with a severe, incurable neurological condition called Lissencephaly (Miller-Dieker Syndrome).
“It was…in caring for Liam that we came to learn of the shortcomings of the medical system when supporting a family whose child would spend countless hours in the hospital, and whose parents had to juggle spending time there with trying to continue as normal a life as possible at home,” the parents explained on their website.
“We became determined to highlight that providing pediatric palliative care at the onset of diagnosis for families who were walking a similar path was a critical component to complete medical care — and Liam’s Room was created.”
Goryeb Children’s Hospital sent O’Reilly and Dr. Sheryl Vassallo to Harvard University for an informational program with pediatric palliative care leaders from around the world, who shared insights on “how to reevaluate the care given and treat the patient according to their needs,” O’Reilly said.
Liam’s Room lets a child “see the room as other than a hospital,” the doctor said. His favorite space is the couch area, where the family can relax. A curtain separates the couch from the patient’s bed, so doctors can speak with the family. It’s ideal for the kinds of discussions that are uncomfortable in cramped, bland hospital rooms, O’Reilly said.
Going forward, Lisa McNamara said she hopes to create a volunteer support group for families.
With the opening of Liam’s Room, the welcome mat is out in Morristown.
Rachael Moore of Morris Township is majoring in communications at Adelphi University, where she will be a senior this fall.
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