Ryan Teixeira, 15, right, and his brother, Neil, 12, play video games in the new teen center at Rogue Valley Medical Center. - Jamie Lusch

Healing with peers

A hospital's an awkward place to be if you're a teen. You're too old to hang out with the kids in the children's ward, and there's no place to play a video game or send e-mails to friends or watch a movie.

Those days are gone, now, at Rogue Valley Medical Center, where a new teen center gives patients ages 13 to 17 a place to get together to play arcade games, log onto the Internet, send messages to friends or watch a movie on a plasma-screen TV.

"It's pretty cool," said Ryan Teixeira, 15, who visits RVMC periodically for treatment of a rare muscular disorder. "It keeps your mind off what's going on around you, basically."

The Ashland youth is being treated for dermatomyositis, a disease characterized by muscle inflammation and weakness in the muscles. He comes to RMVC for intravenous drug treatments that may drag on for four or five hours.

"I've played the games and I've done some work on the computer," he said.

The room is equipped with a 42-inch plasma TV, a 400-disc DVD/CD player, 50 DVD movies, a CD jukebox, two computers and a video gaming system. The gear is cool enough that Ryan's younger brother, Neil, sometimes comes with him to the hospital.

"With the new room it's like a little playground," said Todd Teixeira, the boys' dad. "It's made him feel very much at home when he's here."

The equipment came from the New Jersey-based Alicia "Rose" Victorious Foundation, which equips hospital rooms for teens at hospitals across the United States.

The foundation was created in memory of Alicia Rose DiNatale, who died at 17 in 2002 from a rare cancer. It has funded about 40 teen rooms in hospitals across the United States, to give teens places "where they can be treated as teens," said Liz Horvitz, an administrative assistant at the foundation office.

RVMC's teen room is the foundation's first grant in Oregon, Horvitz said.

The room was designed by Aly Wilson, 18, for her senior project at South Medford High School. Wilson chose a color scheme for the room, selected fabrics for noise reduction panels on the walls, ordered furniture and window coverings and arranged the equipment in the space.

"I spent lots of time looking at swatch books," she said, before choosing a color scheme that includes two shades of blue and an off-white.

"These are cool colors," said Wilson, who will be attending Oregon State University in the fall to study interior design. "They're kind of relaxing."

She discovered that hospitals have strict requirements for the materials that can be used in room decor. She initially planned to put a chalkboard in the room, but learned that chalk produced too much dust for the carefully controlled hospital environment. Ordinary paint wouldn't do, either. She had to use special paints that wouldn't pollute the hospital air.

RVMC treats about 15 teens every quarter for everything from life-threatening cancers to auto-accident injuries. The new room should make a huge difference for them, said Michele Strickland, clinical nurse manager for children's services at RVMC.

"We're excited for the kids," Strickland said. The new room "gives them the distraction not to think about health issues, and to escape from the treatments. It allows kids to get away and do some normal kid stuff even when they're sick."

Reach reporter Bill Kettler at 776-4492 or

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