Teddy Bear adoptions provide opportunities to clear up hospital misconceptions with kids
Penny is a small, fuzzy gray bear with deep brown eyes who wears pink overalls with heart-shaped buttons. She has a floppy hat with an equally pink flower. Her first memory was waking up at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital nestled among her other bear and animal friends who were available for adoption at the Teddy Bear Clinic at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital.
Penny and her friends were in Hershey to celebrate Child Life week and to help the Child Life specialists talk to the children about their fears of hospitals and going to the doctor. Child Life specialist Carrie Myers, who organized the event, works in the emergency department and sees scared little patients all the time.
“This is a time when we, as Child Life Specialists and other medical professionals can address misconceptions children have about the hospital or medical procedures,” she said. “It also teaches them that the hospital can be a fun, safe place.”
Clara and Laura Wade (ages 3 and 1) from Williamsport, Pa, whose new baby brother was born with a ‘broken’ heart that the doctors needed to fix, took home two of Penny’s friends, Bear and Dog. The girls listened to their new friends’ heartbeats and took their temperatures as they visited the stations where nurses and therapists helped them give their bears checkups. They saw many of the same instruments that the staff uses when taking care of 14-day-old Timothy after his open heart surgery. Their dad, Martin, hoped the experience would help the girls understand their brother’s surgery and recovery. “I told them baby brother’s heart was broken and had to be fixed,” he said. “I think this will help them when he’s getting poked and prodded, to know that It’s all to make him healthy, not hurt him.”
Clara liked the music therapists and the red shaker she got to play. She was happy she was able to check her bear, who she plans to take to Timothy’s doctor. “She’s not healthy, she needs medicine,” she said. Clara’s confident she’ll be all right since her heartbeat and temperature were both good.
Another set of sisters, Christianna and Alessandra Hoover (ages 7 and 5) from Readsville, Pa., adopted two more of Penny bear’s friends, Angel and Teddy. The girls were in Hershey to visit their 1-year-old brother C.J. who has leukemia.
Their grandmother, Elsa Miranda, Los Angeles, California, said that the girls are trying to understand what that means. “If you ask, they know what’s happening. They will tell you: C.J. has leukemia,” she said. But the girls are having a hard time understanding that their healthy looking brother is sick.
Like the Wade sisters, the Hoover girls visited the treatment stations where they measured and weighed their stuffed animals and checked their eyes, ears, noses, and mouths. The girls, who are staying at the Ronald McDonald House, were anxious to learn whatever they could to help their brother. They diapered their new friends and buckled them into car seats.
Christianna, a good helper to her brother who is still in diapers, is already an expert in changing them. She now knows how to take his temperature since she checked her bear’s.
Alessandra did not want help as she practiced swaddling her bear, new skills she hoped would be a help.
The music therapy was a hit with the Hoover girls as well. Alessandra hopes her musical skills can help C.J. “I played the guitar and I played it really nice,” she said. “Maybe I can sing him a song.”
Many of the remaining furry friends were adopted by a group of children who visited from Children’s Creative Learning Center on the Penn State Hershey campus. While visiting the Teddy Bear Clinic, they checked their animals’ blood pressure and reflexes and learned to cut and wrap bandages. Along the way, they were met by many nurses and therapists who answered their questions. One of the children said that he is afraid of needles and wanted to know why we need them. The nurses explained that while we don’t like needles, sometimes it’s the only way to get the medicine in our bodies and if we’re really sick, to give the medicine faster so it works more quickly. They talked about blood pressure cuffs and oxygen masks and how important the patient’s bracelets can be to make sure nurses give them the right medicine.
The children also visited the Safety Center, located off the first floor entrance of the new Children’s Hospital, and learned about bicycle helmets, car seats, and home safety. They peeked into the cupboards and saw cold medicine that looked like grape juice and green floor cleaner that looked like a sports drink and vitamins that looked like candy –and learned how to tell the difference and when to ask mom or dad. They talked about when to call 9-1-1 and what to do when we hear our smoke detectors.
The staff members had as much fun as the children at the clinic and hope to continue the tradition next year.