Every weekday at 2 p.m., Timothy Stahlsmith, 9, sits up on his hospital bed with an IV strapped to his left hand, a wired phone on his right and his eyes glued to his room’s flat screen TV.
Timothy waits impatiently for the chance to be chosen as the next contestant for Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital’s game show — Top 3.
The live program, which is part of the hospital’s television channel JoeD TV, aims to teach and entertain patients by asking its participants trivia questions similar to the popular game show Family Feud.
“It’s just fun to play. You have to call in and try to answer the questions,” said Timothy, who is being treated for Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory bowel condition that can affect the gastrointestinal tract.
“This time, I called five times because I just wanted to play,” he said recently.
The children’s network, JoeD TV, began in 2009 as an interactive 30-minute television show at the Hollywood hospital where patients could call-in to participate live from their rooms.
Now, five years later, JoeD TV has recently applied for a grant that will help develop the network. If approved, the money will buy new equipment, expand television programs and create jobs.
Donald Eachus, director of development, hopes the grant will help engage the patients with the community.
“Let’s say we have someone like Alonzo Mourning come and visit the kids,” Eachus said. “We can videotape and edit it down to a 10-minute piece, so that we can show it at different times throughout the hospital.”
The interaction between the patients, families and staff has been key to the program’s increasing popularity, said Michelle Barone, a director who oversees JoeD TV.
“It becomes this bonding experience not just with the family but with the staff, and they have a great time,” Barone said. “We are bringing something to our patients that is fun, cool and current.”
Experts say playtime is fundamental when children stay in a hospital.
“Play time reduces stress, brings laughter and distraction,” said Dr. Isabel Alacán, psychotherapist and director of the nonprofit organization Missing Children Global Network. “The concept of time for children is not the same as for us adults, like when you are going on a trip and the child keeps asking, ‘Are we there yet?’”
Alacán said these types of entertainment programs alleviate the long stay in a hospital for children.
“In games where children play and win prizes, it also satisfies instant gratification — the need to have something now, which is important to them.”
Sebastian Martinez-Malo, 9, who recently celebrated his departure from the intensive care floor at the hospital, said the show makes him feel “happy.”
“The games are cool,” said Sebastian, who attends Sea Castle Elementary in Miramar and has been under intensive care since birth. “Watching the game is a lot of fun.”
Sebastian was transferred to Joe DiMaggio hours after he was born. He was diagnosed with congenital diaphragmatic hernia, a condition that occurs after the diaphragm fails to form or close, inhibiting lung growth.
His mother, Rea Martinez-Malo, 42, said the game shows give her son something to look forward to every day.
“He forgets about all the issues here in the hospital, of the machines and the medicine,” she said.
For almost two years, Rayaad Dinally, also known as “Home Run Ray,” has been hosting the show every Wednesday since 2012.
“It’s escapism, they get away from the real world for half an hour,” said Dinally, who graduated from Florida International University with a degree in journalism and mass communications in 2007.
“Like I end my show every day, I just want to make their day a grand slam.”