OGDEN, UT. | By LAUREN BENNETT, Deseret News (AP) — Mustard, a small yellowish plush bear, had a fever and a cough Wednesday and received a shot and a prescription for “lots of hugs and kisses” at home after the toy’s hospital visit.

Three-year-old Ryker King, who named the bear after his favorite condiment, held Mustard’s stuffed paw during his shot to make him feel brave — and to hopefully teach Ryker to “be brave like Mustard,” said his mother, Natalie King.

McKay-Dee Hospital hosted a teddy bear clinic Wednesday designed to help children understand the hospital experience, ease their fear or anxiety about hospital visits and highlight the hospital’s child life services.

The hospital provided teddy bears for about 400 children, and kids could bring their own stuffed animals from home as well.

Each child named their bear, decided what ailment it was suffering from, received treatment and then decided what follow-up care the bear might need at home.

While the hospital has hosted teddy bear clinics at different community events, this was the first event held at the hospital. Event organizers said it might become a tradition based on the community support seen Wednesday — it was a packed house with about 450 kids.

“I think it’s great,” King said. She said she hoped the experience helped her son become familiar with medical treatment and learn that hospitals don’t have to be scary.

The experience was personal to each child; some bears fell off the trampoline and broke a leg while others only had a stomachache.

Leticia Clegg, child life specialist with the hospital, explained the activity is designed “to help children understand that coming to the doctor and going through medical experiences doesn’t have to be a scary thing.”

Clegg administered countless splints to broken bear limbs, using popsicle sticks and plaster strips. She also gave shots and applied bandages to the injured bears.

Child life specialists are trained in distraction, coping, play therapy and other techniques to help kids feel comfortable and confident when they visit a hospital for treatment, according to Christy Brown, nurse manager of the hospital’s pediatric unit.

Brown said child life at Mckay-Dee is currently offered in the emergency room, operating room, radiology and pediatrics, and the hospital is looking to expand services.

“It’s always a frightening experience having to come to the hospital, kind of the fear of the unknown,” she said.

Keeping the conversation open and honest helps ease a child’s anxiety, Brown noted.

“They assume the very worst-case scenario or they hear things like CAT Scan and think there’s a cat in there waiting for them . so it’s putting terms that are frequently used in medical terminology into real life,” she said.

It’s common for children to react negatively to hospital or doctor visits, Brown said.

“Shots, the piece where they stick the wood down your throat, it always makes me gag,” said 9-year-old Ridge Stimpson, explaining why he is scared of doctor visits.

Ridge, who will be 10 next week, said he liked the event because it taught him what it would be like if he ever went through what the bears experienced.

“So if like we ever got that thing done to us we’d know what we’d be going through,” he said.

Eight-year-old Sienna Stimpson said she was only “kind of” scared of doctor visits and hospitals, mostly because of needles. “And I’m scared of surgery,” she added.

Sienna’s bear, Ruby, suffered from a broken arm. Clinicians administered an X-ray with a clear clip board, and she chose dark blue for the splint.

Ridge’s bear, Jacob, had it rough when he fell down the stairs and broke both an arm and a leg, which required an orange splint for the arm and pink on the leg. Ridge decided Jacob needed rest at home to recover from his injuries.

The pair’s mother, Mindy Stimpson, said she hoped the event taught her kids empathy.

“I think it’ll help them be a little bit more prepared,” she said. “I hope that they can learn kind of how the hospitals work . and make them a little more comfortable for their sake, but also to kind of be sympathetic to others who might be in situations.”

Helping kids understand what their hospital visit might look like could help them cope better — something that’s a win-win-win for kids, parents and doctors, Brown explained.

“If you give them choices then they feel like they’re participating in their plan of care, it’s much easier,” she said.

Parents can sometimes contribute to a child’s fear, Brown said.

“There’s a right way to explain things — telling them too far in advance creates that angst as well,” she said. “It’s empowering parents with the tools as well to make their trip to the doctor’s office or their trip to the hospital successful,” she said.

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(Original article: https://www.deseretnews.com/article/900062777/teddy-bear-clinic-eases-kids-anxiety-about-hospital-visits.html)

Information from: Deseret News, http://www.deseretnews.com