Kids hatch ‘Bear’y good idea

Published 8:56 pm Friday, May 28, 2010

AHOSKIE — Each year Roanoke-Chowan Hospital’s Emergency Department sees 4,000 children and anything to make that experience a little easier for each of those young patients is always welcomed.

This week, Bearfield Primary School pupils along with students from a local home school program helped the hospital out in doing just that.

On Thursday morning, students from Tina Pennington’s first grade class along with four students from Home, a Hertford and Northampton County home school program, presented 41 handmade teddy bears, each with a little heart intact, to the Roanoke-Chowan Hospital Emergency Department staff to give to sick children.

In addition, the students from Bearfield presented a storybook, “Chloe the Kitty Goes to the Emergency Room,” they wrote and illustrated which will be printed and available for the ER’s smallest patients as well.

The student’s work is a part of Roanoke-Chowan Hospital’s effort to make the Emergency Department “kid friendly.”

R-CH Director of Community Relations Lisa Newsome said the hospital recently received a $6,000 grant from the Children’s Miracle Network through University Health Systems. The funds were used to purchase material for the bears and print the storybook. Soon a portion of those funds will be used to purchase children’s furniture and toys for the waiting room in the Emergency Department.

R-CH President Sue Lassiter welcomed and thanked the students for their work on the bears and storybook.

“You’re making it a better experience for the folks who have to come to our hospital,” she said to the students.

In return, the students got a tour of the Emergency Room Department and visited with the doctor on call, Hamza Ashai.

Dr. Ashai assisted the students in helping one of the stuffed bears who needed stitches to fix a hole in her back. With the students eagerly watching, he showed them how the task would be performed on a human patient.

The idea to have the children make the bears began with Home, which has a 4-H program called TLC that made 43 bears last year for the hospital as a community service project.

“As a home school group our focus is on helping the students learn hands-on,” said Donielle McDermott. “This way they can do that and contribute to the community.”

McDermott noted how important it is to lessen the stress for children during traumatic situations. She recalled a car accident she and her family were involved in where one of her daughters lost her pacifier and was very upset. McDermott said perhaps if her child had something like a teddy bear she would have calmed down.

McDermott said the group has enjoyed the project and has given the adults ideas like possibly providing stuffed animals to rescue squads.

For Pennington’s class, the project was equally enjoyable.

“I think this experience has eased their minds in going to the emergency room,” said Pennington. “We had a good time doing it and they learned a lot.”

She said her class had worked on the storybook on and off for the past few months. The story follows Chloe the Kitty who falls from a tree and hurts her paw. During her trip to the emergency room the kitten meets an array of animal characters including Chuck the Cheetah (ambulance driver), Nurse Bluebird, Dr. Dog and Gary the Glow Worm who, of course, works in the X-Ray Department.

When it came to the bears, Pennington said the children placed a heart made of felt material in each, making sure it was towards the front where it could be felt by the patients.

For the past few months, Pennington’s first graders have been getting a crash course in the different medical tools doctors use to help patients at the Emergency Department.

Roanoke Chowan Community Health Center Social Worker Mark Boyd visited the students and taught them about tools like the stethoscope and reflex hammer.

Boyd joined the class as they toured the Emergency Department and the hospital.

“The idea makes sense to normalize the environment for them,” he said.

Boyd added research has shown stuffed animals are one of the ways to reduce children’s anxiety during traumatic experiences and law enforcement agencies like the North Carolina State Highway Patrol and Sheriff’s offices have been using that technique for years.

After Dr. Ashai completed the procedure on the injured teddy bear, the children presented him along with nurses Barbara Barrett and Barbara Benton with three arms full of bears.

Newsome noted that while the 41 bears will comfort a portion of the children who visit the ER, the storybook will help as well with as many as they need being printed.