Local News

Hospital Help Make Visits To ER Less Frightening For Children

Posted September 3, 2004 4:46 a.m. EDT

— A trip to the emergency room can be difficult enough for adults, so imagine how a child must feel. A local hospital wants to make it a less scary experience.

The last time the Blake family came to the WakeMed's Children's Emergency Room, there was a lot of anxiety -- especially for 5-year-old Suzanne.

A small scratch led to a bacterial infection.

"She woke up with a swollen eye. It looked like a golf ball was in her eye," Lisa Blake said. "Come to find out it could have turned into meningitis or loss of sight or anything."

Suzanne needed antibiotics through an IV.

Child life specialist Nicole Debrauwer made sure Suzanne understood what was happening.

"My role here is to help children and families feel as comfortable as they can while they're at the hospital," she said.

Debrauwer also uses toys and books to keep the child's mind off their worries.

"We've taken the issue of pain in children very seriously," said Dr. Marilyn Hicks, director of WakeMed pediatric emergency medicine.

Hicks says special anesthetics spread on the skin make needle sticks less painful. For more serious procedures, sedation helps children avoid painful memories.

"They do remember painful experiences and they do have emotional after effects of painful experiences," she said.

Hicks says staff members feel called to this special service.

"It's very painful and anxiety provoking for the staff if a child is very ill or there's a bad outcome," she said. "There's a particular type of individual that's very devoted to doing that."

The reward is seeing children get well.

"They helped me to get all better," Suzanne said.

WakeMed has the only freestanding children's emergency room in the state. It is one of only a few in the southeast.