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Young patients channel their inner mad scientist

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Young proton therapy patients channel their inner mad scientist.JPGFizzling beakers, gooey bars of soap and lots of smiles were just a few of the scenes at a recent celebration at MD Anderson's Proton Therapy Center.

Each week, the Proton Center hosts a patient information meeting called "Beam News" where physicians, nurses and other medical experts discuss the latest topics in proton therapy. Patients, former patients, family members and people from the community all attend. This time, however, an idea was hatched to try something new with special support from Proton Pals, an outreach group of former patients who received proton therapy at MD Anderson.

"We decided an event for our young patients would be beneficial," says Kelly Wagner, a child life specialist. "Because our staff shares a passion for science, we devised a mad scientist costume party, which would be entertaining and educational at the same time."

madsci.JPGLab transformation
For two hours, a large group of children and their families entered a makeshift laboratory filled with colorful streamers, balloons and a variety of exciting experiments. They were greeted by radiation therapists, nurses, and other staff who underwent a transformation of their own to look the part of mad scientists.

One of the experiments, called the "invisible hand," was especially a hit. A latex glove was attached to a long clear tube filled with gas. Once the gas rose to the top, the glove began inflating automatically to a wide array of smiles. The patients also created "cloud goo," a mixture of shaving cream and corn starch.

Kids being kids
For the patients, the event was an opportunity to look beyond their disease and have fun.  For the proton therapy staff, it was all about normalizing the hospital experience.

"It was gratifying to see the patients be a little more spunky than normal, and I know their parents were happy to see that," said David Lege, a medical dosimetrist at the Proton Therapy Center, who wore a funny colored wig. "At the end of the day, they're all regular kids, and they even wore me out a little."

After the event was finished, the 15 or so patients who attended returned to their normal routines, but not without a powerful reminder that there's more to life than the next medical test or treatment. It's about making time count despite whatever challenges lie ahead. And that's how it should be.

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