In a sea of teddy bears and toddlers, the sports centre was filled with families yesterday afternoon as the annual Teddy Bear Hospital got underway. Hosted by the TCD Paediatric Society, this is the third year this event has been running. With an emphasis on interactive learning and educational activities, the purpose is to promote a positive attitude towards hospitals and medical treatment for kids as well as relinquishing the fear that surrounds pain and illness. Catherine Stacey, the chair of the society, gave Trinity News a tour of the variety of mock procedures the society were carrying out for kids from all over Dublin, with the help of some much loved plush toys.
A mingling of children and volunteers covered the floors where every area had posters, jigsaws and demonstrations to entertain the crowds. Stacey explained the success of the hospital’s first year; since then, the event has continued to grow in both interest and activity. This year, the society took on board 95 volunteers for the day and saw over 250 kids and families pass through the doors. The range of qualifications and areas of medicine included in the festivities was compelling. Students studying speech and language therapy, radiation therapy, dentistry, physiology and occupational therapy were all additions to this year’s line up. Stacey claimed a multidisciplinary approach is an important part of the society as the more areas of medicine that can be exposed to young children, the better the engagement these kids will have in the future should there ever be a medical issue.
Looking across a mass of colour and teddies, it was easy to decipher the different stations and procedures that were taking place for the benefit of the children and their toys. One corner of the room had two handmade MRI machines where teddies were being placed on boards and x-rayed for their families. Each child received a physical x-ray to take home so that they could see where their toys may be ill or need fixing. On the opposite side of the room, a group of surgeons were peering over a large teddy bear that was being unzipped for heart surgery. Allowing the kids to put on scrubs and be taken through the hygiene routine was both informative and enjoyable for everyone involved. Other areas of the room had tutorials on dental health, first aid and healthy eating, with a new game for the children to play in which they can see how food is digested in the body.
Aimed at children aged four to ten, the event fosters an early understanding and acceptance of illness and the positive work done in hospitals. It has recently been discovered that through the posing of the teddy bear as the object of stress, a child may be able to put themselves into a space or mindset in which they may better accept and comprehend issues of pain and illness. So, if they experience a similar issue, they have the coping skills and mechanisms to understand their situation.
Partnered with the National Children’s Hospital in Tallaght and Bumbleance, all proceeds from the day will go to furthering research and resources for paediatric medicine in Ireland. With such positive responses from previous years and the high turnout this year, Stacey expressed hopes for mobilising the activities by creating a satellite hospital that can be taken to different primary schools in the Dublin area, some of which were originally contacted for the festivities today. It is with this encouraging progress in the field of paediatrics that the Teddy Bear Hospital will surely be back again next year.