At This Children’s Hospital, Kids “Drive” to Surgery in Their Very Own Remote Control Cars

I think we can all agree that being a patient in the hospital is pretty nerve-wracking. You’re hooked up to tubes and machines, and a slew of people you don’t know are poking and prodding at you. Now imagine you’re a child. Imagine how much more terrifying it all must be when the world looks 10 times bigger. Well, INTEGRIS Baptist Medical Center in Oklahoma City has just made the experience of being a hospital patient much less scary for kids. In fact, some might even say they have fun on their way to the OR.

Thanks to a partnership with local sorority Delta Theta Chi, INTEGRIS doesn’t transport kids back to surgery anymore via hospital beds. Instead, pediatric patients ride in style — in their very own remote control cars.

A young patient at INTEGRIS Health Center smiles while sitting in a Mini Cooper remote control car.
Image Source: INTEGRIS

INTEGRIS tells Babble that it was a NICU staff member who originally heard of another facility that used toy cars to transport kids back to surgery. Her daughter is affiliated with the sorority, so she floated the idea to them. Apparently, they loved it, and decided to purchase and donate a batch of remote control cars to the hospital as a way to help ease the fears of young patients.

So far, it’s definitely working.

The children hop on in and “drive” themselves over to the operating room (in actuality, a staff member is controlling the car via remote nearby). They even get to listen to their favorite song on the way!

A representative for INTEGRIS tells Babble that the change seen in each child is remarkable. They “seem to wake up better because they are happy and distracted when they get to the OR,” the rep shares. “The OR is a scary place and having the distraction makes it easier for the child and for the health team.”

A young patient at INTEGRIS Health Center "drives" to the Operating Room.
Image Source: INTEGRIS

The cool cars also make goodbyes with Mom and Dad easier, too. In fact, the representative tells Babble, “On the very first day we had a mother express how anxious and clingy her daughter was, but once she got in the car she told her mom to ‘stay here’ while she drove herself to the OR!”

See ya, Mom!

What more could a parent ask for than to see their child’s fears eased as he or she heads into what could otherwise be a very scary situation? In fact, staff at INTEGRIS say the cars have had a huge impact on the parents, just as much as the kids.

“Sometimes parents are more worried than their children,” says pediatric ENT Paul Digoy, M.D. “Then to see their child being taken into surgery crying and visibly upset, it can be heart-wrenching for them.”

A young girl rides her Mini Cooper toy car into the operating room and is greeted by doctors.
Image Source: INTEGRIS

But Child Life Specialist Ashley Ochs says, “Parents have been vocal about how much better this experience has been compared to past experiences. They’ve been relieved to see their child head to surgery with a smile on their face.”

Although the cars are doing a great job of helping kids relax, they are only a piece of the puzzle, the hospital tells Babble. Staff members also employ other calming methods to ensure that children have the safest and least traumatizing experience possible.

“Using Certified Child Life Specialists help the children cope with the strange and sometime scary situations of being in the hospital,” a rep for INTEGRIS explains. “Child Life works with the children in the pre-op area and gets a sense for how the child will do and tailors her plan from there.”

A boy greets his doctor in a red Mini Cooper while on his way to surgery.
Image Source: INTEGRIS

The hospital tells Babble that the Child Life Specialists will do things like let the kids safely interact with medical equipment as a form of distraction. They also determine, based on their assessment, if the child should still have a parent accompany them back to the O.R. or not.

“The key is preparation and support, along with the car or other distractions, “ the hospital says. “The car is not a solution on its own, as a child needs preparation and support to aid in a positive experience.”

But it sure looks like the car helps; and even more exciting — more are on their way!

“The story has prompted an outpouring of generosity to INTEGRIS Children’s,” the representative shared with Babble. “Our foundation has secured four more cars and we had a community member call us after [hearing the news] and bought one for us! The current cars have a weight limit of 65 lbs. and we have been asked to see if we can larger ones because the older children also want to ride.”

A young patient at INTEGRIS Health Center drives away in her remote control car.
Image Source: INTEGRIS

Even the older kids want in on this fun action! Can you blame them? (And hey, how about us grown-ups too? It sure sounds fun to roll up to that colonoscopy in a convertible, amiright?)

In the end, though, this is an incredibly kind and generous gift for young children who are facing very grown-up situations. Thank you to to Delta Theta Chi and INTEGRIS for helping ease the worries of your tiniest of patients as you work hard to make them better.

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