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Children’s Mercy eases young patients’ fears with ‘Teddy Bear Clinic’

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Being in the hospital can be scary for kids. So in a hospital full of doctors and nurses, Children's Mercy employs a team of child life specialists.

"We do a lot of teaching and preparing patients for what they will experience and encounter," child life specialist Megan Johnson explained.

Still a lot of the terms can be confusing, and the unfamiliar setting can be unsettling. But the hospital has come up with a unique way to connect to the patients, through teddy bears.

"When we give kids a toy or a teddy bear or a doll that can experience some of the things that they have experienced, it makes it less unfamiliar," Johnson said.

Wednesday was the annual Teddy Bear Clinic, part of the hospital's Child Life Specialist Week.

"They check in just like they were going to the doctor. Their teddy bear goes to a vital station. They get weighed," Johnson explained.

Then the child gets to decide where the teddy bear goes next. Some go to surgery, others to radiology or music therapy. Chances are the child will take the teddy bear through a treatment plan much like the young patients are going through.

It's a day for children waiting for transplants, undergoing cancer treatment or suffering through some other ailment with unbelievable uncertainty to be a kid.

"When we can get them to a point, not that they want to be here, but that they are comfortable in an environment that normally isn't comfortable, that instills a little pride in our job that the work we are doing is really good for that patient and that family," child life specialist Amanda Porter said.

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