Kids call it the "Bod Shop." It resembles a teen center with a bumper pool table, a popcorn popper, stereo and refrigerator. The scene is a special unit at the Alexandria Hospital for teen-age patients.
The unit, which was dedicated in April, was designed to help adolescents adjust to the hospital and to their illnesses, according to Dr. Peter Nachajski, chief of pediatrics at the hospital. Before the unit was established the teen-agers stayed in the pediatrics ward or in a regular ward with adults who had the same types of illnesses, Nachajski said.
The atmosphere in the unit is relaxed. Patients are allowed to smoke in their own rooms and can dress in street clothes, as long as they are modest and comfortable. An unlimited number of visitors is allowed from 1 to 8 p.m., the most liberal visitation policy in the hospital.
"When a child gets sick it's a devastation to him," Nachajski said. "Someone has to think of more than just the specific illness. When you admit an adolescent . . . you're treating age and disease, rather then just the disease.
"When you say there's a special place for teen-agers, it softens the blow, and I think it softens the blow for parents."
The unit was planned by a group of about 30 Alexandria high school students, said Dave Norcross, public relations director for the hospital. The group tried to make the unit as natural as possible, he said, which resulted in three basic rules - control yourself, considers others and respect the unit.
Nachajski said adolescent units are part of a growing trend among hospitals in the U.S. Arlington Hospital is planning to open a similar ward next month.
For 12-year-old Yvonne Ransom, of Falls Church, the 15-bed Alexandria unit helped make a recent two-day hospital stay less frightening.
"When you get in here and meet lots of friends it isn't so scary," she said. "You feel like you're at home."
For Ransom, who has been in the hospital several times before, the special ward also alleviated fears of being stuck in the pediatrics ward with "the little kids."
"(The unit is) pretty good," she said. "It's better than all those toys around the place. It's grown up instead of toys."
Ransom's new found 14-year-old friend, Berkely Rhodes, agreed. Rhodes, who suffered a broken leg on a trip to Richmond, said she chose the Alexandria Hospital for her recuperation. She likes the concept of an adolescent ward because "it would just kill you" to have to share a room with an "80-year-old woman with a heart attack," or the "hospital depression types," she said.