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Program sheds softer light on emergency room

The Baltimore Sun

Kim Cass knows better than most how traumatic a trip to the emergency room can be for a child.

For about 12 years, Cass, a pediatrician, has seen a lot of children more upset about their visit to the emergency room than their illness.

"With the bright lights, equipment, and doctors and nurses everywhere, it can be really scary for a child," said Cass, the director of pediatric emergency medicine at Upper Chesapeake Medical Center in Bel Air.

In an effort to help kids feel more at ease, Cass is holding the first Teddy Bear Clinic in the hospital's pediatric emergency room.

To participate, children from preschool age through elementary school bring their stuffed animals into the emergency room. The animals are triaged by the emergency room nurses and doctors and then treated, based on their diagnosis, she said.

She had no trouble getting doctors and nurses to volunteer to help with the program, she said.

"This is a fun activity for us," she said. "It's not like this is some horrible duty. We get to play with the kids and have fun."

The stuffed animals might have fevers, broken arms, cuts or bruises, she said.

"We will give them band-aids, put on little splints, or take care of a fever," she said. "The idea is to familiarize the children with the ER. We want them to know what happens if they ever have to visit the hospital in an emergency situation."

During the clinic, the children can explore and see some of the equipment at the Exploration Station, she said. The station will include monitors, stethoscopes, blood pressure cuffs and respiratory masks. The children will be allowed to listen to their heart beat, put on a mask and see how the monitors work, she said. Upon completion of their doctor's visit, the children will receive a certificate.

"We want the parents and the children to see that a visit to the ER doesn't always have to be bad," she said.

The event is free and open to the public. It will be held at Upper Chesapeake Medical Center at 9 a.m. Friday in the pediatric emergency room.

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