The Mario Lemieux Foundation Opens New Austin’s Playroom at Children’s North

Updated on March 9, 2018

Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC and the Mario Lemieux Foundation announced today the opening of an Austin’s Playroom at Children’s North, the hospital’s ambulatory and surgical care center located in Wexford.

The playroom will serve to distract patients and ease anxiety as they await surgery.

Nathalie Lemieux, vice president, Mario Lemieux Foundation and chair, Austin’s Playrooms; George Gittes, M.D., Benjamin R. Fisher chair of pediatric surgery and surgeon-in-chief, Children’s Hospital; Jennifer Dickman, director, Surgery Center, Children’s North; Nancy Angus, executive director of the Mario Lemieux Foundation; and special invited guests officially opened the space.

“We are so pleased to open the 35th Austin’s Playroom,” said Nathalie Lemieux. “Our goal is to reach as many children and families as possible, and we are excited to bring an Austin’s Playroom to children having outpatient surgery at Children’s North.”

Austin’s Playrooms were established as a result of Nathalie and Mario Lemieux’s personal experience while caring for their infant son, Austin. In 1996, Austin was born profoundly premature and spent 71 days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. While they were caring for Austin, there was nothing to engage his sisters, who were both toddlers at the time. It was then Mario and Nathalie realized a need for playrooms and began their plan to establish Austin’s Playrooms.

“Having to undergo surgery can be a scary process for a patient and their family and the stress of waiting can make it even more so,” said Gittes. “Having an Austin’s Playroom here will ensure that patients and families have a bright and comfortable place to relax and play. This addition will enable us to improve the patient experience, offering a form of distraction that reduces anxiety while waiting for surgery.”

On average, there are 8,000 patients that visit Children’s North surgery center annually.

Each Austin’s Playroom features comfortable child-sized furnishings, as well as games, toys, books, electronics and child-friendly artwork. Nathalie Lemieux uniquely and personally designs each playroom, which features a train table, wall-mounted games, large screen TV and much more, inside a brightly painted room.

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