Red wagons at Texas Children's Hospital help ease anxiety for young patients, parents

February 25, 2013 4:21:53 PM PST
If you had a surgery or procedure in the hospital when you were a child, you probably still remember how scared you were.

One-year-old Lily was facing cancer surgery, but she rode to surgery in a little red wagon -- just like the wagon she has at home. It reduced her anxiety and tears, and it actually reduced her parents' anxiety, too.

"There's no separation anxiety. There's no mommy's fading away in the distance as the doors are closing," Lily's mother, Sabrina Wagoner, said. "Nothing dramatic like that."

With a kiss from her mother, Lily headed into surgery.

"Having that red wagon, she related to that as 'hey we're going to play,'" Wagoner said. "She doesn't know Mom and Dad aren't around; she doesn't know what's about to happen to her. All she knows is 'I'm going to play,' and that was very comforting for us."

They sang all the way into the operating room where Lily's surgery began. Still no tears.

Texas Children's Hospital has a fleet of red wagons they use for tear-free transportation to surgery

"For children who are old enough, they will help lead tours and show them the operating room and tell them about the procedure they're going to have," said Dr. Kim, a TCH surgeon.

It's all to reduce a child's anxiety, which can matter years later.

I still remember a hospital procedure I had when I was six years old, and I remember the fear. Lily won't have that fear.

And since that nine-month checkup when they found Lily's cancer, her parents have less fear about her future.

"It was a very big abdominal surgery, and the fact that it's only four days later and she's ready to go home is very exciting," Wagoner said.

Her doctors are optimistic, her family is relieved and Lily goes home with a scar on her belly, but not a fearful memory.
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