On Wednesday, April 9, patients at Driscoll Children’s Hospital had the chance to be the doctor for the day, thanks to Stripes’ Child Life Program, “Teddy Bear Hospital". The event allowed several child patients in the hospital to familiarize themselves with the medical equipment and procedures involved in the day-to-day treatments of those in the hospital.

“Sometimes the hospital can be a little bit scary; even adults think hospitals are kind of scary,” said Child Life Specialist Francis Covilla. “So we want to remove the mystery and enemy of surprise by allowing the patients to go through the entire hospital experience with their own teddy bear patient.”

The “Teddy Bear Hospital” was held in the Driscoll Children’s Hospital auditorium, with several booths set up as stations. The event began with each patient choosing their own teddy bear, naming it, and along with the help of the Child Life Specialists on hand, the children would then make a stop at each station, learning new things about each step in the treatment process.

“They go through admitting; they go through triage; they go through surgery; they go through getting an I.V. and lab draw, and they get to perform these procedures,” said Covilla. “It allows them autonomy and some sort of semblance of control that they seem to have lost by coming here.”

Covilla says that Stripes’ Child Life Program plans to host the event twice a year, with the goal of involving as many patients as possible, informing and comforting those nervous and scared patients year-round.

“Kids always tell us that not only is it fun, but it’s informative. Kids today, and a lot of adults, still believe that there’s a needle that remains behind in your I.V. They actually get to start an I.V. themselves and they see that it’s just a plastic little straw,” said Covilla. “A lot of times, it’s the mere factor of exposure and desensitization. Some kids just want to see what’s going on and have some control.”

The “Teddy Bear Hospital” and the Child Life Program are made possible because of a $1 million donation from their corporate sponsor, Stripes Convenience Stores, allowing the program to continue to plan and develop new, fun and informative events for the child patients admitted to Driscoll Children’s Hospital.

“We’re pretty fortunate to get to do all these things, with the help of Stripes,” Covilla said. “We get to have a lot of fun and do this on a daily basis and get to really participate and bear witness to the transition from being scared to suddenly becoming okay with being in the hospital."