The anticipation in the hospital’s sixth-floor lobby was palpable. Not even the room’s majestic view of the San Gabriel Mountains could distract the occupants as they listened eagerly for recreation therapist Edwin Domingo to make the next call.
|Recreation therapist Laura Castillo records bingo numbers while players check their cards. (Photo by p.cunningham)|
He paused for effect, then said, “B-39.”
“Bingo!” cried two players in unison, and the remaining crowd members reacted with laughter and supportive cheers as Domingo set about verifying the winners’ numbers and awarding prizes.
The bingo game was part of a program initiated by the Department of Rehabilitation Services to boost adult patient interaction and support for one another.
Since May 2010, hematology patients and their family members have gathered twice monthly in City of Hope Helford Clinical Research Hospital’s fifth- and sixth-floor lobby areas to socialize and be entertained by the centuries-old game.
“By having our patients gather to play bingo, it offers them a chance to meet others while they receive beneficial therapy outside their traditional treatment rooms,” says Toni Carreras-Irwin, R.T.C., recreation therapist in the Department of Recreation Therapy.
Recognizing the potential health benefits stemming from patient interaction, Carreras-Irwin and other recreation therapists brainstormed on ways to encourage them to socialize. They settled on bingo because it is simple, entertaining and nearly universally known.
“Bingo is fun and well-liked, and we thought it would attract the most participants,” Domingo said. “It’s a way to let them know they are not alone in their fight against cancer.”
Prizes for the winners include hats, scarves, picture frames, puzzles, and laundry baskets filled with laundry supplies and snacks — items particularly useful for patients moving from inpatient treatment to Hope and Parson Village.
Bingo holds a significant place in City of Hope’s history. In years past, parlors across the U.S. hosted popular bingo nights and donated a portion of the proceeds to City of Hope.
“City of Hope used to hold ‘bingo nights’ on campus in the old auditorium before the  Whittier earthquake knocked it down,” said Carreras-Irwin. “We thought this could be a nice way to reintroduce it to campus in a way patients would enjoy.”