Healthwatch 16: Homework in the Hospital

GEISINGER MEDICAL CENTER -- School work might seem like the last thing a young person would worry about during a long-term hospital stay.

But there's a program at Geisinger Medical Center that keeps kids up to date on their lesson plans and it ends up doing a lot more than helping them with their grades.

This is not your typical classroom, but then, 14-year-old Brandon Conaway is not your typical teenager.

Off and on, Brandon's mom Heather Conaway lives in a hospital room and works and sleeps right beside him at Geisinger Medical Center near Danville.

"He's been sick since he was born, so this is home to us," Heather said.

Her husband stays home in Centre County, working and raising their 17-year-old daughter.

Brandon is an eighth grader. He also has a condition that paralyzes his stomach and chronic bowel issues basically his GI system doesn't properly function, and he spends months at a time in the hospital.

"In the past year he's made school maybe two weeks," Conaway said.

"It's to give them some continuity of service to keep them from falling behind on their schoolwork, to give them structure to their day, to give them distraction from what might be going on," explained hospital school teacher Barb Morgan.

Morgan is employed by the Central Susquehanna Intermediate Unit, and works three days a week from inside Geisinger Medical Center, working with young patients in long-term care kindergarten through 12th grade -- everything from nursery rhymes to algebra.

She's working with Brandon's teachers to keep him up to date with his school work which also gives parents a break to grab coffee or lunch.

"I'm not just providing a service for students and families. I'm making a connection for them here in the hospital that doesn't have anything to do with pain," Morgan said.

Heather calls the hospital school program amazing and says Brandon is thriving with even looks forward to Miss Barb's lesson plans.

"He's pretty much with Miss Barb more than he's with his regular teacher," Heather said. "It's so important to be able to have a sense of normalcy to his day in a not-so-normal situation."

Morgan says she can work with teachers or counselors from any public or private school to create lesson plans for a student.

As for Brandon, his mom says if all goes well, they should be able to go home in the next few weeks and get him back to his real school.

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