COLORADO (KCNC) — A hospital stay can be a traumatic experience for a young child. Children’s Hospital Colorado uses new stuffed animals to ease that anxiety. But the hospital is running out of stuffies, and they need help from the community.
Abbey Schafer works as a Child Life Specialist at Children’s Hospital Colorado. Her whole job is to ease the stress and anxiety that goes along with kids being in the hospital. She uses stuffed animals every single day.
“I use stuffed animals a lot for what we call ‘medical play,’ so I can use the stuffed animal as a teaching tool,” Schafer said. “If the child has an IV, they don’t know what an IV is. They’ve never had one before. Having a stuffed animal that also has an IV provides a sense of normalcy.”
Some of the stuffed animals have their own IV and sometimes they come with a medical kit, so the child can doctor right along with the regular doctors. Schafer gave a stuffed puppy to 4-year-old Sadie when she had to get an IV.
“I can take the stuffed animal in there, talk about the IV. We can practice giving the stuffed animal medicine and it helps them to understand what their own IV is for,” Schafer explained.
“That’s for checking his ears,” Sadie said holding up a plastic otoscope from her medical kit.
Then she demonstrated how to check Mr. Doggie’s ears. Even now, in her Littleton home, Sadie is very excited to play medicine on her stuffed animals. Mr. Doggie is covered in Band Aids.
“He got hurt on a rock,” she explained.
Mr. Doggie was one of several stuffed animals and dolls that Sadie got during her 4-day stay at Children’s Hospital Colorado. She was admitted with an abscess in her lymph node that was threatening her trachea and her breathing.
“She was very nervous, very upset, and at the same time in a lot of pain,” said Andy Simmons, Sadie’s dad.
Getting Mr. Doggie and the other stuffies made a huge difference in her experience at the hospital.
“It completely shifted her focus from the traumatic, the scary to being the caregiver, the provider for her own little family,” said Brandi Wildfang Simmons, Sadie’s mom.
Both parents agree that stuffed animals for the younger patients is essential equipment.
“It’s crucial. These kids have no idea what’s happening to them. They’re not able to process a hospital experience like an adult does. They need these things, these comforts to get over those emotional hurdles,” Simmons said.
“Having stuffed animals on-hand when a child is crying, or going through an exam, or having to get an ultrasound, having that tool in their pocket to comfort them is priceless. So I would encourage anyone and everyone to donate stuffed animals because it really does make the experience so much better for people,” Wildfang Simmons added.
Schafer explained that they also use the stuffies to help siblings feel connected.
“We would sometimes give matching stuffed animals, so one to the sibling at home and one to the baby that’s maybe in the NICU, and so the sibling at home can feel more connected to them,” Schafer told CBS4.
Children’s Hospital Colorado needs donations of new stuffed animals of all shapes and sizes.
“We always appreciate the more interesting or out there animals that we get because there will also be a kid that really enjoys that animal and would love it,” Schafer said.
You can make a donation by contacting the Volunteer Office at the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, or the North Campus in Broomfield, or the South Campus in Highlands Ranch. You can set an appointment, and then drive-up and drop-off your donation. Someone from the volunteer office will come out to the parking lot to collect it.
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