Pediatric surgery patients at Doctors Medical Center now have an option to riding a gurney into the operating room: driving a sleek black Mercedes Benz convertible.
Not a child yet has said, “Gurney, please,” or left the decision up to eeny meeny, miny moe.
The medical center added the one-seater kiddie car about six months ago. Kimberly Martinez, a registered nurse in pre-op, was searching the Internet and social media for ideas to reduce the anxiety children suffer when being separated from their parents as they go into surgery.
When Mom and Dad are heading to the waiting room while their little one is bound for the ER, “a lot of times you just have to peel the child from the parents, and it can be very traumatic,” said Martinez’s colleague Evie Olds, an RN who works in the recovery room.
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Martinez saw that a few places like Shriners Hospitals for Children use kiddie cars, so she thought, “Why can’t we do that here?”
After the appropriate steps to gain approval and have the car (about $230 on Amazon) added to the budget, it was ordered and hit the hallways. The little GTR has two speeds and tops out at a little more than 3 mph.
It has opening doors, working headlights, back-up lights and dash lights, a horn, a variety of preloaded music and an MP3 player. And, of course, a seat belt.
The car is intended for children ages 2 to 7 who weight less than 66 pounds, Martinez said. Children who are able may drive it themselves, but it also can be remote-controlled. Even a patient who’s on an IV can take the drive — a nurse just needs to keep pace with the rolling stand.
So far, only a few kids have taken the ride, Martinez said. “It’s the best thing ever. The moment we tell them (about the car) and ask if they would like to ride, their face lights up, their parents are excited. That’s one of the biggest things they remember,” she said.
The Mercedes joins other tools the pediatric surgery staff employs to make the hospital experience a little less scary for young patients. There are toys, coloring books, Lego blocks and iPads in the pre-op area that also help, Martinez and Olds said.
Separation anxiety is a serious thing, the nurses said, that can cause problems like bed-wetting and nightmares long after the hospital stay is done.
“It’s a great distraction,” Martinez said of the car.
“And it’s not a drug,” Olds added. Any time staff can solve an issue without having to add medication is a plus, she said.