MT. KISCO, N.Y. – Dozens of Westchester teddy bears are in tip-top shape after paying a visit to the doctor.
The stuffed animals received a full work-up Saturday as part of the Teddy Bear Clinic at Northern Westchester Hospital.
By performing routine medical tasks on the toys, like inserting an IV or putting a cast on a “broken” limb, organizers said they hoped to introduce young children to a hospital setting in a friendly environment.
“So many children fear going to the doctor or fear going to a hospital,” said Maria Simonetti, the hospital’s director of Community Health Education Outreach. “This is a way to expose them to these things before an emergency.”
The annual event drew more than 200 parents and young children from around Westchester County. Led by high school tour guides from the President’s Junior Leadership Council, families met the hospital’s doctors and nurses while getting an up close look at all the possible scenarios they might encounter in an emergency situation.
“It can be pretty nerve-racking visiting a hospital for the first time,” said Becky Barnett, a tour guide and senior at Byram Hills High School. “This is a cool way to get kids to come into the hospital.”
As the animals passed through the check-in station, children told nurses what ailments their stuffed friend was suffering from. Some had broken arms, while others had cuts or a high fever.
Once admitted to the emergency area, owners watched as their bears had IVs inserted into their furry arms. Later, the animals were placed under an x-ray machine, while many had a plaster cast wrapped around a broken paw or tail.
Some, more seriously injured teddy bears, were even stitched up by hospital nurses.
“He feels better,” 6-year-old Alex Spector said, holding up his brown bear and showing the cast wrapped around his arm.
The animals were then given a full check-up by Dr. Pete Richel, the hospital’s Chief of Pediatrics. A few brave children even let the doctor listen to their own heartbeats and took a taste of the flavored tongue depressors.
Families were also taken on a tour of the Pediatric Unit, learning the ins and outs of what a stay in the hospital entails.
Takoya Martin said she thought the tour would help her four children be less apprehensive about a visit to the doctor.
“We thought it would be cool to go around and see a hospital just in case anything happens,” the White Plains woman said. “Then it wouldn’t be a total shock to them.”
Erika Setzer, the Patient Care Manger at Northern Westchester Hospital, said that was the goal.
“We want you to come to us before you need us,” she said.