WEBSTER — The sixth floor of Clear Lake Regional Medical Center is not nearly as white as hospitals are clichéd to be.
Instead, the ceiling is speckled with artwork made by the patients of its pediatric intensive care unit and pediatric wing.
“We wanted to make the pediatric unit have bright colors because kids all ages come here and we wanted it to reflect who we are and what we’re about,” Dr. Gautam Malkani said.
As the largest PICU in the Bay Area with 10 beds, colorful ceiling tiles were used as a way to relax children seeking treatment and to brighten up the floor.
“It was clearly a brilliant idea because it cheers everyone up, including the staff,” Malkani said. “Our basic thinking was that if we have kids who spend a couple of days to weeks in here, it would make it a somewhat positive experience.
“The drawings and colorings are always refreshing.”
The initiative began in 2011 and now, almost 200 tiles later, the ceiling still has plenty of room for more designs.
For 8-year-old Christian Byers, coloring a ceiling tile provided him with a fun activity during his four-day stint in the ICU back in 2011. Suffering from pneumonia, Christian was one of the first to draw on a ceiling tile.
“I drew a lion,” Christian said.
Though the PICU treats all children with severe conditions, some patients are too young to illustrate ceiling tiles themselves. This, however, doesn’t stop them from leaving their mark on the floor, as families are allowed to decorate tiles in honor of their loved one.
The tiles, colored with crayons, paint pens and colored pencils, extend into hallways, the playroom and patient rooms.
“A lot of times we have patients with chronic conditions, so they come back often,” Malkani said. “They may request the tile in a room they stay in a lot.”
PICU nurses have even joined in on the tradition, decorating their own tiles. While some children leave inspirational messages on theirs, others dedicate their tile to their nurses or color pictures.
“Sometimes if a patient needs some inspiration on what to draw, we give them coloring sheets,” Jennifer Denefield, a nurse, said.
The ceiling tiles used are brought up from maintenance, colored by patients, and installed to replace blank tiles. While they are little efforts for decoration, the tiles help make the floor more inviting.
“It’s been just wonderful, it’s exploded all over the unit,” Malkani said.
To brighten up the PICU even further, Disney donates books, toys and movies to the playroom twice a year.
Malkani said that with so many tiles, it is hard to pick a favorite.
“Unfortunately we’ve lost some of the patients who made tiles, so those are ones I always remember more,” Malkani said. “Certain ones we have certain attachments for.”