Mini cars help “drive away” kids fears in hospital

The hospital can be a scary place when you’re 6.

It was for Noah Rose, who wanted to turn around and go home as soon as he arrived at Memorial Hospital in late July for a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy.

“Noah was mostly scared of the unknown, and he is extremely stubborn. I was minutes away from rescheduling his surgery and just going home,” said his mom, Lauren Rose, MSN, RNC, charge nurse in the Childbirth Unit, OB informatics nurse and bereavement coordinator.

Lauren tried everything to reassure Noah and ease his fears.

Nothing worked.

But a nurse told Lauren not to worry.

“Just wait until Amy gets here,” the nurse said. “She will help.”

Amy Eads, MS, CCLS, had been given a heads up when she started her shift.

The Child Life specialist had been told how an anxious pediatric patient had planted himself near the elevators, unwilling to enter the outpatient surgery reception area.

So when she arrived, Amy immediately went over to the elevator area where she found Lauren and Noah.

“I saw his mom sitting in a chair looking emotionally exhausted. I sat next to her, to assure her that this is not the first time there has been a child who was anxious, and that I was there to help him understand the surgical process. That it was my job to make this new experience as easy as possible. That I would help her son cope with his feelings about having surgery.”

Amy approached the little boy and sat down on the floor beside him.

She told him her name was Amy and how she wanted to make the day easier for him.

“I told him we had a room where he could watch TV and that there were some fun things waiting for him, including coloring pages. I suggested we just go see what his room looked like and then I could tell him more about what he could expect.”

Noah didn’t want to go with her.

But he and Amy just happened to be right outside a room containing a special something that she knew might make a difference.

“I asked him if he would like to ride in a super cool new car.”

At first, Noah said no.

But Amy suggested they just take a look at it.

Noah agreed.

“As I pulled the car out of the room, his face lit up,” Amy said. “I asked him again if he would like to drive it to his room.”

And he smiled.

“Oh yeah,” he said this time.

Noah climbed into the shiny new pint-sized car and away he went.

On the way to his room, the nurses smiled and waved to Noah as he drove down the hall. His mood had completely changed.

“I explained to him about his special pajamas and he put them right on and walked with me to get measured for his height and weight. And over time, while in his room, I continued to work with him to prepare him for his surgery,” Amy said.

They talked about each step and looked at pictures of the operating room.

She also talked to him about what to expect.

Child Life specialists like Amy have been available in the Surgery Unit at Memorial for the past two years. These specialists provide developmentally appropriate preparation, education, support, coping strategies and distraction before, during and after surgery to pediatric patients.

Amy and her colleagues work with patients like Noah to help normalize this sometimes unfamiliar environment, and help children to have the best possible healthcare experience so they are more likely to continue seeking healthcare as adults.

When Amy first heard about the mini cars for pediatric patients, she felt so excited to be able to implement another child-friendly concept into the Memorial outpatient surgery unit.

The local donors first heard about the battery-powered Magic Cars® Mercedes Benz cars on a story on the Today Show. They saw the faces of the pediatric patients at another U.S. hospital, which had obtained these cars for their young patients.

“The donors told us how they have been very blessed in life, they saw the story and they loved the idea of giving back to their local children’s hospital,” said Ryann DeMoss, Senior Gift Officer, Beacon Health Foundation.

Kids can drive the cars themselves from inside the car with the steering wheel, pedals and buttons, or the nursing staff can operate the vehicles using a wireless steering wheel set to Mom/Dad mode.

The cars feature leather seats, a working stereo, headlights and taillights, real rubber tires, and real opening driver and passenger doors. They are geared toward kids ages 1 to 10.

The local donors purchased three Mercedes Benz cars for Beacon Children’s Hospital, and the cars are used in Outpatient Surgery.

“Riding in a car is something that is fun and familiar to them,” Amy said. “The cars have been huge assets in helping normalize a child’s experience as the patient prepares to go to the OR. Children have felt more comfortable leaving their parents and it has been easier for parents to see their kids going back for their procedure.”

Noah willingly engaged in medical play and conversation. She could tell he felt calm and comfortable.

“When it was his time to go to surgery he got right back into the car and drove it all the way to the OR, smiling as the nurses and staff waved to him,” Amy said.

Lauren was thrilled.

“It was great how he could drive it back to his surgery through the ‘magic doors.’ He had all the nurses and staff in the hallway smiling at him. He had a genuine smile on his face, and from that moment on, I knew he would cooperate for the surgery.”

Lauren said the car and Child Life staff saved the day.

She later wrote a note to Amy.

“You are fantastic at what you do. The entire Child Life department is amazing and completely necessary for kids experiencing procedures in the hospital,” Lauren said. “I needed you all just as much as my child did.”

And she wrote a letter for the Beacon Foundation to give to the anonymous donors.

“The cars made all the difference in our surgery and in our day,” Lauren said. “We truly appreciate your donation.”