A few weekends ago, we were able to take advantage of a fantastic opportunity to volunteer with the Velo Cardio Facial Syndrome (VCFS) support group for the afternoon. Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center put together a support group for the parents and families of children with VCFS. While the parents were listening to lecturers, some of the GCP girls were able to play with their children.
Until a few weeks ago I had never heard of VCFS or worked with a child who had VCFS so this was a great opportunity for me to hang out and get to know some of our VCFS patient population. VCFS is a genetic condition that can affect the palate, heart, and face. Children with VCFS can have a cleft palate, heart defects, minor learning problems and delays, speech problems, hearing loss, behavioral problems or mood swings, and feeding problems. This syndrome is variable and every patient doesn’t have all of these features.
While we were off pretending like we were kids again with the patients and their siblings in the backrooms of the church, the parents were listening to presentations on VCFS and the VCFS clinic given by our geneticists and genetic counselors. Dr. Hopkin presented ‘What’s in a Name?’, which described the reasoning behind the nomenclature for VCFS (velum for palate, cardia for the heart, and facies for the face). Dr. Saal talked about the role of the VCFS clinic at CCHMC and the hopes and future plans for the clinic and its staff.
There were six first year and one second year students who decided to spend their Saturday morning volunteering. When we arrived at Vineyards Church on the north side of Cincinnati, we set up the lecture room for the parents. We were able to provide the children and their families a delicious breakfast and then play time began. We set up four separate rooms for the children and young adults to hang out in. We had a teen room, an arts and crafts room, a movie room, and a play/toy room. In the arts and crafts room we made Valentine’s Day cards - one of the little girls even made me one :) The toy room was a blast! We had building blocks, mini golf sets, bowling sets, and dolls for the kids to play with. The biggest hit of the afternoon was the balloons. We had one big game of ‘don’t let the balloon hit the ground’ which was a huge success. We even had our doctors involved - Dr. Hopkin rocks at making paper airplanes. After play time (and learning time for the adults), we all got back together to mingle and enjoy lunch.
I must say the VCFS volunteering opportunity was one of the highlights of my quarter so far! The kids were awesome and they gave me a chance to let loose and refine by coloring/Play –doh skills. I can’t wait for the next opportunity to work with this patient population!
-- Laura Fairbrother, First year Student