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Keeping your Child Active During Stem Cell Transplant

This information will help you understand why activity is important while your child is in the hospital, and what you and your child's physical therapist (PT) and occupational therapist (OT) can do to help.

Activity and movement are important to help your child grow and develop. Being in the hospital can limit your child's normal activity, and mobility and play skills are easy to lose if not used. The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Cebter (MSKCC)  rehabilitation (rehab) team, which includes PT and OT, is here to keep your child active and engaged while he or she is in the hospital.

Why is Activity Important?

Activity is important for children of all ages. Infants and young children learn new skills by exploring their surroundings and by playing with their family and toys. Preschool children learn new gross and fine motor skills and how to interact with other children. School-aged children improve their balance and coordination each day, and they learn to perform more complex movements.

Exercise and developmental play help:

  • Keep muscles strong
  • Keep the body flexible
  • Maintain heart and lung conditioning
  • Reduce stress and lift mood
  • Improve sleep

It's important for your child to keep developing these skills. The goals of the rehab team during your child's hospital stay are to:

  • Promote normal development
  • Maintain healthy levels of activity
  • Encourage movement and normal daily activities
  • Maintain strength and endurance during transplant

What can a physical therapist (PT) do for my child?

PTs work to improve each child's movement and endurance. Your child's PT will address any problems that he or she may have with:

  • Getting in and out of bed
  • Walking
  • Climbing stairs

The exercises your child and his or her PT do will progress slowly, to fit your child's needs. More advanced exercises include:

  • Running
  • Jumping
  • Skipping
  • Hopping
  • Playing sports

What can an occupational therapist (OT) do for my child?

OTs help with the important everyday activities, including hand coordination and handwriting skills. Your child's OT will address any problems that he or she may have with:

  • Dressing
  • Bathing
  • Eating
  • Toileting
  • Grooming
  • Playing

What can I do to improve my child's exercise and development?

  • Keep your child's routine in the hospital as close as possible to his or her routine at home.
  • Your child should get up and walk to the bathroom to use the toilet and to wash up. These activities should not be done in bed.
  • Your child should get dressed every day, and take part in games and activities like at home.
  • Your child should spend time in bed only when sleeping.
  • Be creative. Encourage your child to explore the area through play. For small children, use a mat on the floor to allow your child to move freely and learn new skills.
  • Be part of your child's care while he or she is in the hospital. Learn your child's exercise program, and offer support by doing the exercises together.

How often will my child's PT and OT visit?

Members of the rehab team will visit your child every week. They will make sure that your child is staying active and participating in his or her daily routine.

What if there is a change in my child's treatment?

Although your child's rehab staff and medical team work together to care for your child, you should let your child's PT and OT know about any changes. If necessary, your child's therapy will be adjusted. For example, tell your child's PT and OT if you notice a change in:

  • How much your child takes part in his or her daily activities
  • Your child's ability to get in and out of bed, walk, or move
  • Your child's interest in playing

Is there anything my child should not do?

It is generally safe for your child to get out of bed and be active at any time. However, sometimes your child may have less energy for activities. When blood counts are low, it is best to avoid very physical activities. For example, when your child's hemoglobin level is less than 8, he or she may be very tired. Also, your child may bruise more easily if his or her platelets are less than 20,000. Your child's doctor and nurse will teach you about these and other blood counts.

We don't expect your child to be active if he or she is very sick. When your child feels better, we will increase the therapy and play activities.

Who are my child's rehab therapists and how do I contact them?

My child's physical therapist (PT) is: ________________________________

My child's occupational therapist (OT) is: _______________________________

Rehab services are provided Monday through Friday from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm. Your nurse can contact us for you, but if you would like to call us directly we can be reached at (212) 639-7833.

Please use the space below to write down any questions or concerns you have for us. You can also list goals for your child, or ideas that we have shared that you would like to remember.