Bernard's Mommy - Diana M. Chiles - Le Bonheur Children's Hospital - Memphis, Tennessee
"A Cheerful Heart Does Good Like A Medicine."
"I thank Jesus Christ, our Lord, who has given me strength,
that He considered me faithful, appointing me to his service."
1 Tim. 1:12
I have a Masters Degrees in Education/Child Development
from Mississippi College in Clinton, Mississippi,
and a second Masters in Religious Education
from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
in Fort Worth, Texas -- a three year degree
with a concentration in Family Counseling.
I first became a "puppeteer" in 1970,
when I did my research/thesis project on
"Puppetry and It's Effect Upon Education"
while earning my Masters in Education Degree.
My professors built a puppet stage for me and sent me on the road
to do puppet shows all over the state of Mississippi.
They encouraged me to become a professional puppeteer.
But I wanted to do something important with my life.
I was afraid that if I were a puppeteer,
people would wonder what I was going to do when I grew up!
I taught school immediately after graduating from college.
During that time I also worked with the youth group at my church,
which included leading their puppetry ministry.
While lecturing for a teacherís conference in Houston, Texas,
the Head Chaplain from M.D. Anderson, Dr. Ed Mahnke, heard me speak.
He talked to me about the fear and trauma
that children experience when they are hospitalized.
He asked me if I had ever considered utilizing my puppets as a therapeutic tool
to help children cope with the emotional stresses of hospitalization.
I loved my teaching. (I was a born teacher!)
But Chaplain Mahnke's words continued to grow inside my heart.
After much prayer, I resigned my teaching, moved to Fort Worth, Texas,
and entered Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
to earn a Masters in Family Counseling.
During my research, I came across several wonderful articles
written by Sally Francis, the Child Life Director
for the Children's Hospital in Dallas, Texas.
I was able to spend valuable quality time under Sally's wing,
and with her encouragement, completed a Child Life Internship
at Cook-Fort Worth Children's Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas.
It was during this time that I discovered for myself the perfect combination
of therapy and puppetry to reach the special needs of frightened children.
Upon graduation from Seminary in May, 1979,
I was hired as a Pediatric Therapist for the
Mississippi Baptist Medical Center
in Jackson, Mississippi.
In 1991, I received a phone call
from Dr. Sallye Wilcox, the Vice-President of Nursing at
Le Bonheur Children's Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.
Ironically, Memphis was my home town and the city
where my mother, uncle, sister, brother-in-law, and three nieces lived.
My nieces had been praying for "Aunt Di Di" to "come home".
(God never ignores the prayers of children.)
Sally's words were:
"Diana, I was wondering if there were anyway you would
consider coming to Le Bonheur.
Le Bonheur needs to play. Le Bonheur needs Bernard."
So I came home . . . home to Memphis.
Bernard became the first green little boy
ever admitted to Le Bonheur Children's Hospital
on March 18, 1991.
After 20 years of this glorious ministry,
on June 20, 2011, the wonderful chapter in my life came to an end.,
I will always cherish the memories of my time there.
So what did I do? It's simple:
I used puppetry to comfort children.
As a fellow patient, Bernard has the ability to bring a smile
and to provide trust, comfort and friendship.
Through play children are able to express their feelings and
gain a greater understanding of their hospital experience.
For many years Bernard and I were a part of
Le Bonheur's Child Life Department,
working with the other Child Life Specialists to help
children and their families
cope with the fears and emotional stresses of hospitalization.
Today I am working as an independent free-lance Christian Speaker,
focusing on churches and children's ministries,
as well as medical institutions, schools and civic organizations.
Through the years, there have been many children and families
who have been touched my heart and inspired my life.
It is a pleasure to have the opportunities to share their stories.
"Children Need More Than Medicine To Get Well."