>It seems like every time I walk the halls of the hospital, I leave inspired. It’s a magical place where all the needs of the children are met, not just the physical ones. It’s a place where a teddy bear clinic is just as important as a child’s medical treatment.
I didn’t know what to expect at a clinic for stuffed animals. What I found immediately put a smile on my face. In the corner of the room, nurses wheeled a penguin out of “surgery.” The animal was attached to an IV pole and wore a mask for anesthesia. A nurse carefully placed the penguin in the owner’s hands before they moved onto their next patient.
Children got to walk in their parent’s footsteps for a day as they lined up at different stations with their most prized possessions. Many had concerned looks on their faces when they handed over their beloved animals at triage, radiology, IV, X-ray and surgical areas designed just for the miniature patients.
I watched the children go through the process, and I could only imagine how empowering it felt for them to be making the decisions.
One of the decisions 7-year-old Madeline Smith made that day was her bear’s symptoms. She told clinicians that “Andy” had tummy problems. Madeline could relate since she’s been dealing with tummy problems of her own since birth. She has Methylmalonic Acidemia Disorder, a metabolic condition that causes her to have five to six bouts of pancreatitis each year in addition to anemia and kidney disease. She gets a special formula and takes many medications each day.
“All of the child life specialists we know and love worked at the clinic,” said Trey Smith, Madeline’s dad. “Not only was it comforting but it was also educational for chronic patients like Maddie.”
Andy had an IV placed in his arm before undergoing an MRI scan and having his blood drawn. He was diagnosed with appendicitis and would need surgery.
“We always try to explain to Maddie why she has to get her blood drawn,” Smith said. “It was neat for her to see her bear’s blood under the microscope. They even explained how they look for cultures.”
Madeline kissed Andy goodbye before surgery and sat patiently in the waiting room. Within minutes, Andy’s tummy problems were fixed and the duo was on their way.