By CRISTINA JANNEY
For a child, visiting the hospital can be scary, but a new project sponsored by the Wonder Women League seeks to ease that anxiety.
The rumble of tiny engines filled the entrance to HaysMed on Wednesday as WWL rolled out its new Wagons and Wheels vehicles.
Auto World, Hays Chevrolet and Lewis Automotive partnered with WWL to purchase three remote control cars that will drive children to procedures.
The motorized cars will be nurse/parent remote-controlled and used to take a child to a procedure not requiring surgery such as having blood drawn, tonsillectomies and other minor procedures. While the kids think they’re really driving the cars, they’re actually being operated remotely by a nearby nurse.
When the WWL did its research, they found only three other hospitals in the country that have similar programs.
"What they told us is that when a nurse comes up wheeling a car and says, 'You want to go for a ride?' their eyes just light up and they think it is so much fun," Nancy Jeter, WWL co-chair, said.
"Because when they come to the hospital, I assume they are nervous and anxious and they don't know what to expect."
The hospitals that use the motorized cars and wagons said it makes a big difference for the kids.
"Children that are going under anesthesia, it makes a difference what their frame of mind is when they go under," Jeter said. "If they are more relaxed and less scared, the results are much better."
One of the SUVs is pink, one blue and one has police vehicle decals.
The WWL also bought Radio Flyer red wagons with IV poles attached that will be used to transport children following surgery and those requiring longer stays.
"They will allow parents to get kids out of their rooms. If they are in the room and hooked up and they are bored to tears, they can take them for a stroll around the hospital," Jeter said. "We thought that was a great idea."
Hospitals that use the red wagons and motorized vehicles report their use greatly reduces stress among children and helps to make the children feel more comfortable, according to the organizers of the project.
It is hoped the motorized cars will help take a youngster's mind off what is happening and take them to the operating room in a non-stressful way, WWL said in a news release.
The cars not only make the experience more positive for the children, but for the parents. Sometimes parents are more worried than their children, WWL said in a news release. To see their child being taken into surgery crying and visibly upset can be heart wrenching for them. Having their child go off to surgery with a smile on their face gives a parent relief as well, the WWL said.
"The Wonder Women League thanks HaysMed for the opportunity to provide Wagons and Wheels to the pediatric unit. We hope to ease the anxiety and fears of children needing care and provide an additional level of care for families, " WWL said in a news release.
Wonder Women League is a local affinity group under the umbrella of the United Way. It is comprised of 70 women leaders dedicated to affecting change in the community. Projects are designed to support the United Way Impact Initiative.
Rhonda Meyerhoff is the other co-chair of Wonder Women League. The Wagons & Wheels committee included Lori Hertel, Kerry Wasinger, Amy Schaffer, Korina Parker, Mary Karst, Joleen Fisher, Sandi Maier, Erica Burges, Jeter and Meyerhoff.
Other Wagons and Wheels sponsors included RD Graphics, Commercial Sign and HaysMed. Commercial Sign will be painting a background in the Pediatric Unit where the the cars will be parked.
Other projects WWL have supported include Born Learning Trail at Sunrise Park; a self defense course; Matthew’s Gift, a program that provides snacks and hygiene items to families who have loved ones who are transferred out of HaysMed on an emergency basis; and the Can We Talk Project, a program that matches trained listeners with college students who are dealing with stress or mental health issues.
The Heartland Community Foundation recently announced WWL received a $5,000 grant for its Suitcase Project. Law enforcement officials and social workers will have access to duffle bags that will contain items for children who are being removed from their homes.
The WWL league membership began discussing the idea when they learned many children are removed from homes with nothing or carry what few belongings they have in trash bags.
The duffle bags will contain a stuffed animal, pajamas and hygiene items.
The project has yet to launch, but local law enforcement and St. Francis Community Services are already on board with the project. CASA helped write the grant for the project.
The WWL is also working on bringing a cyber security curriculum for youth to Ellis County schools. They also hope to bring in a speaker on the topic this spring.
WWL is also in early discussions on a project for area elderly. More details on that project will be announced at a later date.
Editor's note: Cristina Janney is a member of the Wonder Women League.