There's no doubt the teddy bear is typically a universal symbol of comfort. It is something kids usually associate good thoughts with. And that's the thinking behind a special program at the Children's Hospital at Montefiore, where the little ones step into the role of doctor and the stuffed animals becomes their patients.
In February, doctors diagnosed 5-year-old Gian Carlos with lymphoma.
"He didn't know what was happening," parent Ana Arias said. "And when I told him he had to stay in the hospital and sleep here, her wasn't happy about that."
But thanks to this unique program at the Children's Hospital, Gian and countless other sick children can better process what can be a very scary experience.
At the Teddy Bear Clinic, they essentially play doctor, carrying out mock procedures on the stuffed animals, things they'll eventually have to go through.
"A lot of these kids, it may be their first time in the hospital," the hospital's Lindsay Davis said. "And they don't have experience with people poking them and don't understand why, and it's our job as child-life specialists to help explain to them all of the things that go on in hospitals and why it's happening."
Twenty-year-old Marielys Ruis has been in and out of hospitals her entire life. She suffers from sickle cell, and it was her second time visiting the clinic.
"I used to cry all the time," she said. "Now, when I get an IV, I don't cry."
In fact, the number one request is giving the bear's IVs.
And it's the real thing. Chances are, during their stay in the hospital, the kids will have to get one.
At the end of the session, the children take the teddy bears with them. Many are eager to show their doctors the work they've done.
The Teddy Bear Clinic falls under the hospital's child life program, which has a host of services all geared towards helping children and their families cope with illness, injury and treatment.
All of the stuffed animals are donated. To find out how you can help, visit MonteKids.org.
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