NASA Astronauts Visit Cancer Patients
With Tuesday's launch of the second-to-last space shuttle, I found myself thinking about my friends at NASA and what the future holds for them. NASA has a great group of people; I know this from the regular visits they make to the Cancer and Hematology Center as parts of the Arts in Medicine program. Visits from NASA Johnson Space Center are some of my favorites of the year. They bring so many fun and interesting things for our patients and their siblings to see and do; they appeal to our young patients and spark the interest of our teens and parents as well. As part of the Arts in Medicine visiting artist series, NASA brings crafts and creates lasting memories in our patient clinic waiting area. Each child can create a "Flat Stanley" astronaut that they can tether to themselves or their IV pole. Decorated with stickers, pom-poms, yarn, buttons, gem stones and more, the astronaut craft project is great for our young patients, and is something that can be completed quickly or that can fill time spent waiting. They also bring a space suit and various parts, space gloves, drinking bags and other items from outer space that the kids can try on. This part really appeals to the older kids and parents. Each time, several NASA experts answer all types of questions from what astronauts eat, to where they sleep, and how it feels to come back to earth. NASA also provides the kids in the Cancer and Hematology Center with photos, pins, decals, and other information about their missions. The staff is always very organized, creative and engaging with our patients and their families.
Mr. Mike Coats, Director of NASA Johnson Space Center and a past commander of several space missions, has attended each of these visits over the past few years. He takes time to meet with every family in the outpatient clinic, talking first with the child and then with the family. He reads children's books to patients and holds crying babies. All of the NASA staff encourage the kids in our clinic to study math and science and to pursue their dreams.
They truly are an amazing bunch of people and I wish them well on their latest voyage; they have brought much joy into the Cancer and Hematology Center.