As twins Ayesha and Sufwan play with child life specialist Sarah Pajak, their distinct personalities come out. Ayesha is chatty and giggly, while Sufwan is more focused and reserved. But what the twins have in common is a rare disease that has severely weakened their immune systems. Both have had bone marrow transplants — twice.
Confined to separate rooms in the Jeffrey Jay Weinberg Bone Marrow Transplant Unit, they look forward to these daily playroom sessions with Pajak. She plans fun, structured activities, often with a purpose: to help gauge their emotions, prepare them for treatment or distract them from the stresses of a long hospitalization.
Today, they’re making trees to celebrate the arrival of fall and make up for the fact that they can’t go outside. Pajak paints their hands and forearms brown, which they press to construction paper to form branches and trunks. The kids just turned 5 at the Hospital, and they had cakes with Spider-Man and Dora the Explorer.
As Sufwan glues paper leaves to his tree, Pajak asks, “Was the cake bigger than my head?” He nods and they reminisce about the city they built for Spider-Man to swing around in.
They do a lot of things in these sessions: reading, playing music, even dance parties.
After Pajak helps Ayesha wash the paint off her hands, Ayesha says, “I wanna do it again!” Pajak picks up the brush and coats Ayesha’s palm with another rainbow of paint.
“High five!” says Pajak.