Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Wednesday's Woman: The Child Life Specialist

“I’ve had a lot to say and plan to say a lot more.” ~Kimberly Pugliano

When she is not out for her daily run with her dogs, today’s guest blogger, Kimberly Pugliano, is writing.  Kimberly is a prolific blogger.  I can barely keep up with her, which is not surprising as my rate of reading and writing is equaled to the pace of a snail sliding along the sidewalk.  Nonetheless, when you visit Kimberly's space, The G is Silent, you’ll quickly figure out why I so desperately want to keep up:  she’s as generous as she is generative, compassionate and funny, authentic and real.

In the midst of her writing, she is a dedicated wife and mother, daughter, friend, and more, so much more.

When I received her submission for this week’s Wednesday’s Woman, she just completed the process of welcoming a new member into her family—officially and beautifully.   It’s a story you do not want to miss--read it here--one, in and of itself, worthy of being honored in Wednesday's Woman.

I thought, “How in the world can this woman be in the the middle of a life changing event and yet still be so generous as to submit a piece for Wednesday’s Woman?”

I can’t answer that question and I will not give up trying, aspiring to emulate her honest and giving heart.

The person Kimberly chose to honor today, Ana Vega, is one that shares her generous spirit and one that, like Kimberly, betters our world through her interactions with others—very human interactions requiring a brave and compassionate spirit. 

Thank you, Kimberly, for sharing your kindness and compassion today at Sperk*.  


I’ve heard many times that it takes a special person to be a hospice worker, and that they are like angels on earth.  They take care of a person who is dying, and in addition help the family prepare for what is to come.  When the family member does pass away, they take over everything that needs to be done, allowing the family to grieve – and helping them do so.

Enter the Child Life Specialist. 

Ana Vega, Child Life Specialist,
Children's Hospital, Los Angeles
My friend, 29-year-old Ana Vega, originates from Ojai, California, and upon graduating from high school she attended California State University,Northridge, majoring in Child and Adolescent Development with the intent of becoming a teacher.  However, when taking an Introduction to Child Development Professions, she was introduced to a Child Life Specialist and she knew immediately this is what she wanted to do.

After graduating, Ana started her internship in the fall of 2007 and finished in 2008.  She started her first job as a Child Life Specialist in July 2008 in Las Vegas, at UMC.  In the summer of 2010, she took a position with Children’s Hospital, Los Angeles, where she remains.

Ana’s definition of a Child Life Specialist (CLS) is as follows:  

A person who works to provide normalization for children in the hospital, they promote effective coping through play, age-appropriate medical preparation and education. CLS work with doctors, nurses, social workers and other staff to meet the emotional, developmental and cultural needs of each patient and family.” 

When she first started working in this field, her simpler explanation to me was that she helped children adjust to being in the hospital and also helped children prepare to leave or to die.  Like a hospice worker, Ana has spent many hours with dying children.

According to Children’sHospital of Los Angeles (CHLA), “A Child Life Specialist is a professional who is specially trained to help children and their families understand and manage challenging life events and stressful healthcare experiences. Child Life Specialists are skilled in providing developmental, educational, and therapeutic interventions for children and their families under stress. Child Life Specialists support growth and development while recognizing family strengths and individuality, and respecting different methods of coping.”

Growing up a sick child herself, in and out of CHLA coincidentally, Ana has an entirely different perspective of her responsibilities.  She’s been that child trying to adjust to being repetitively admitted and discharged from the hospital.
When I asked Ana if she could see herself doing this for the long-term, she said emphatically, “Yes!”  It’s fulfilling and satisfying providing for her patients and families, but she has spoken to co-workers who have been in the field many years and it makes her wonder if she’ll still be as enthusiastic down the road.

Does it wear her down?  Of course it does.  She says, 

“Anyone in this field is a compassionate, caring and children-loving person. To see children day after day suffering, in pain, depressed, withdrawn, isolated, alone, etc....those things take a toll.”  She then countered, “My job is SOOOO rewarding and important (to me and the people in our field) that I keep going…my patients and families keep me going. To see the progression, milestones and achievements, makes this all so worth it. There are sad days and there are extremely exciting days! It’s definitely an emotional rollercoaster, that I never want to get’s fun!”

Regarding coping, Ana talks with her colleagues, the people who share her passion as well as her sadness.   She shares her feelings about the day, discussing what worked, what didn’t, and where to go from there.  She is also blessed to have resources for the staff such as yoga, massages, support groups, etc.

I have been in awe of Ana since she started her internship many years ago, and she slowly moved around and up until she ended up in her current position.  She says she has a Bachelor’s, but her position now requires a Master’s degree and she hasn’t been doing this THAT many years.  I think Ana is more than just an amazing woman.  I think she’s an angel here on earth.  I’ve always said I could never work with sick children or the elderly; it’s too heart-wrenching.  Precious Ana, she works with sick children every day, with the sole purpose of helping them have a good day when they are sick, scared, frustrated and possibly dying.

This is why I have chosen sweet Ana Vega as today’s Wednesday’s Woman.  

photo credit: Lynda Giddens via photo pin cc


  1. Beth MoncourtoisJune 27, 2012 at 1:19 PM

    WOW - Well deserved. ANA YOU ROCK !

  2. Ana, You have an amazing job, and I salute you. I lost a brother to cancer over 15 years ago, and I remember the love and support the hospice people gave. I wish I could remember the name of the Child Life Specialist who helped our family like no other could. You are the type of person that brings faith back into the hearts of the ones that need it most. You are and angel on earth and I thank you for your "presents" you "gift" every day.

  3. This is a great portrait of an amazing person. Guess it takes one to know one. I can't imagine the amount of toughness it takes to do a job like Ana's - she truly has tremendous heart. It's inspirational. Thank you.


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