June 10, 2004

Web site building program cuts stress, keeps families of sick children in touch

Communicating with family and friends all over the country has just gone high tech at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital.

Communicating with family and friends all over the country has just gone high tech at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital. A new custom website building program has just been launched so that families can post daily notes about a child’s progress and even photos and video clips of the child in his hospital room.

"We wanted to give the families quality time with their children, where they can take just a few minutes to add to the website and communication is taken care of. That way they wouldn’t have to deal with many phone calls, or returning dozens of e-mails," said Angie Atema, Child Life Specialist for Children’s Hospital. "I hope it offers a small sense of relief that communication with friends and family is one less thing to worry about."

The website building program is available through computers in patients’ rooms on the "Go Fetch" portion of www.vanderbiltchildrens.com. The Go Fetch website builder was funded by The Christie Cookie company and put together specifically for Children’s Hospital by MonsterLabs.com, a local Web company.

Julie Black is familiar with the routine at Children’s Hospital. Her son, Gavin, now 3, had a heart transplant here when he was an infant. Now he’s back with stomach tumors. Julie is calm, despite the seriousness of Gavin’s diagnosis.

"With the heart transplant, my husband and I went through it all. We learned that you have to trust the doctors and be calm for your child," Black explained. "They can sense when you’re stressed or sad and it makes them sad."

The Blacks were one of the first families to test the new program. The Go Fetch website builder is designed to help families stay in touch with the outside world with as little stress and effort as possible. After more than a year of planning, the program is up and running, helping families like the Blacks keep loved ones informed long distance.

"My parents and my sister are in Maui, and my husband’s parents are in Grass Valley, Calif., so this has saved me from having to constantly e-mail or call them," Black said. "I can’t call my sister usually, because in Hawaii there’s a five-hour time difference and it’s hard to catch each other."

Atema, who is in charge of Go Fetch, says this program is different from many others because they designed it for kids to build their own websites if they’d like to.

"There are other programs available to hospitals for their families to use," said Atema, "but we decided to build and design our own program to give options you can’t get through the other programs. We have more selections for themes, colors, characters and clip art. The patients have asked us to look into getting logos from the Predators, the Titans, even their own schools."

Black said the website wasn’t hard to set up, and now she and her family have fun posting photos and video clips shot in their hospital room with the camera on top of their computer. Every day Julie updates a journal to tell how Gavin is handling his chemotherapy treatments.

The websites offer unlimited space for photographs, and each hospital patient room is equipped with a computer with a camera on top, so filling the photo page is an easy task.

They also afford unlimited space for visitors to sign in to a guestbook.

Black enjoys "picking up the mail" every day and seeing who has been to visit and has left wishes for Gavin. She says it saves her valuable time and effort keeping loved ones informed about Gavin’s progress.

"We heard from people we don’t even know in other states," Black said. "Our family forwards Gavin’s website to other people and it goes from there. We’ve even had a card from someone in

Patients and families were involved in the process of designing the program. Atema says ultimately Go Fetch could host 80 or more websites for children receiving treatment at Children’s Hospital.

Contact: Carole Bartoo, 322-4747