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Positive Image Center


Learn more about Mikealyn's experience at the Positive Image Center


Positive Image Center

American Family Children's Hospital

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Kyle Bursaw // Curb Magazine

Faces of Courage
New center boosts young patients’ self-image

At the age of 6, Bradley began to worry about his hair. He combed it thoroughly every morning, until the last strand took its place. It seemed unusual for a young boy, but the shy and self-conscious first-grader took pride in his appearance and dreamed of being an actor. Although Bradley participated in other activities like soccer and crafts, he felt most at home in the stage spotlight. While performing in “Charlotte’s Web” and “Dr. Doolittle” the last two years as part of his hometown drama club, Bradley found the one place where he could open up and be himself.

When a cancer diagnosis struck last summer, 11-year-old Bradley knew he would lose his hair and his spot in this year’s play. These factors devastated Bradley just as much as his illness.

When his mother, Claudette Behling, heard about a new center in the hospital that could help her son gain self-confidence during his chemotherapy treatments, she wanted to learn more.

A unique place

The Positive Image Center, located on the second floor of the new American Family Children’s Hospital in Madison, is the only one of its kind inside a U.S. children’s hospital. The center provides wigs, scarves, hats and makeup in an effort to build patients’ self-esteem while dealing with physically altering illnesses and treatments.

The innovative center plays a valuable role in the healing process of many patients like Bradley who are concerned about their appearance. Bradley, the first male patient to request a wig, felt overjoyed after he discovered an alternative to being bald. When Debi Machotka, an image consultant at the Positive Image Center, walked into his room with various color samples of wigs, his face brightened. After receiving the wig, he wore it for three days straight. For three days, he felt better about his cancer and hair loss.

This was the goal of Donna Sollenberger, former CEO of UW Hospital and Clinics, when she first suggested the idea of the Positive Image Center. After seeing a similar place at the City of Hope in California, Sollenberger decided to create a center exclusively for children. When the children’s hospital in Madison opened in August 2007, her idea became a reality.

According to Mary Kaminski, director of patient and family services, they wanted to create a place to help all types of patients. The center focuses on providing supplies to oncology patients but also includes skin treatment makeup for patients with surgery scars.

Kaminski also currently gives tours to other hospitals that travel to see the center. Hospital CEOs from California and an architecture company from Alaska have come to see the one-of-a-kind center.

Although unique, the center costs extra money and takes square feet away from revenue-producing clinic space. Donations and hospital operations pay for the center, and patients receive the service without cost. Because it does not produce revenue, however, the center needed a clear and worthwhile purpose. At first glance, it may appear like a simple beauty salon in the hospital, but the patients who come into the center reveal its real value.

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