PORTSMOUTH, Va.

Naval Medical Center Portsmouth’s (NMCP) Pediatrics Department dedicated their newly renovated Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) waiting room in honor of Matthew Hafer, a former patient who passed away at NMCP.

Matthew was receiving treatments for Ewing’s Sarcoma, a very rare type of cancerous tumor that forms in bones and soft tissue. This cancer mostly affects children and teenagers.

“Matthew had a highly aggressive form of Ewing’s Sarcoma,” said Cmdr. Coleman Bryan, NMCP’s Pediatric Hematology/Oncology department head. “After several years of fighting the cancer and going through surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, he succumbed to his cancer. His parents wanted to help do something to remember Matthew, so they worked with our Child Life and Pedatrics Department to renovate the PICU waiting room as Matthew spent a lot of time in the PICU.”

Bryan was one of Matthew’s oncologists during his three-year treatment at the medical center.

“Despite what Matthew was going through, he always kept a positive attitude,” Bryan said. “He was always worried and concerned with how other people were doing. That was just his personality. The waiting room was a very fitting tribute to Matthew because now his legacy is being able to help other people.”

Bryan added that the PICU waiting room is where families and children wait for same-day procedures or to visit loved ones admitted to the PICU. This can create a lot of anxiety from the families and from the kids as well as their siblings; so having a fun place to hang out and wait helps to diffuse some of that anxiety.

“One of the things that people noticed was that we had a waiting room for parents and families but it was dark, unappealing, and there was nothing to do in there,” Bryan said. “Matthew’s parents, along with the Child Life and Pediatrics Department, wanted to make the room a happier place for kids and families to wait. One of the biggest stresses on a parent is having to go to a doctor’s appointment, whether it’s your appointment or your child’s, a parent is always going to worry about what to do with the kids while waiting. This newly renovated waiting room gives them something else to do and eases some of that stress."

The Hafer family contacted and partnered with the Child Life and Pedatrics Department to dedicate and renovate the PICU waiting room to give back to NMCP for the years of care and treatment that Matthew received.

“We are an Air Force family that didn’t know about NMCP until Matthew’s diagnosis when he was transferred to the medical center,” said Cathy Hafer, Matthew’s mom. “When we were told there wasn’t anything else that could be done for Matthew, the plan was to take him home, but instead we asked to stay at the hospital because we would be surrounded by staff that had become our family during Matthew’s three-year battle with Ewing’s Sarcoma. When Matthew passed, I reached out to find a way to give back and pay it forward for the amazing love and care he, as well as our family received.”

Chris Brogan, a Child Life Specialist at NMCP, added that the American Legion Auxiliary, the world’s largest women’s patriotic service organization, also partnered to donate a game table which includes games such as Pacman, Mrs. Pacman and Donkey Kong.

“The idea for the renovation is to impact the emotional feel of the room for the parents, patients, and their families because of the tension of what’s going on down the hall,” Brogan said.

In addition, the Hafer family wanted to create an uplifting place that families and other children awaiting procedures could come to and feel comforted.

“We are hoping that the renovated PICU waiting room brings comfort and peace to families that use it,” Hafer said. “Matthew always had a smile on his face and always wanted others to smile, so I hope the room will put a smile on someone’s face while being in there. I knew that renovating that room would touch many lives.”

As the U.S. Navy's oldest, continuously-operating military hospital since 1830, Naval Medical Center Portsmouth proudly serves past and present military members and their families. The nationally-acclaimed, state-of-the-art medical center, along with the area's 10 branch health and TRICARE Prime Clinics, provide care for the Hampton Roads area. The medical center also supports premier research and teaching programs designed to prepare new doctors, nurses and hospital corpsman for future roles in healing and wellness.

For more news from Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, visit www.navy.mil/local/NMCP/.

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