MSU performs outpatient teddy bear surgery

On Saturday, Samantha Ruggieri had a chance to watch her father perform surgery on a patient she could relate to­: A teddy bear.

“It’s a great day,” said the 8-year-old Haslett, Mich., resident, while holding her stuffed dog.

Ruggieri watched her father work on mock patients during the annual Teddy Bear Hospital and Picnic hosted by the MSU Department of Pediatrics and Human Development within the College of Human Medicine. The goal of the event was to help children become comfortable with medical staff and procedures, learn about how to stay healthy and fix injured teddy bear patients.

Julia Nagy / The State News
Julia Nagy / The State News
Julia Nagy / The State News

Rafael Ruggieri, senior resident in surgery at Lansing’s Sparrow Hospital and a clinical instructor for the MSU Department of Surgery in the College of Human Medicine, said volunteer medical personnel dressed as they normally would, in scrubs and lab coats, to show children they should not be afraid of people in those outfits.

“This is a great opportunity for children to meet doctors and to basically learn to interact with them (and) not be scared,” Ruggieri said.

Various booths were set up in the Michigan 4-H Children’s Garden, each featuring different types of doctors and medical departments. The booths also introduced children to instruments used by doctors, including a model X-ray machine for stuffed animals.

Booths were run by volunteers, some of whom were MSU medical students, including first-year medical student Austin Fernstrum.

Fernstrum helped in the surgery booth, where stuffed animals with holes were sewn up using a surgical suture, a medical instrument used to attach body tissue.

“It’s a teddy bear clinic, and we’re helping (kids) get comfortable with the hospital experience, whether it’s surgery or getting shots, it’s helping them,” Fernstrum said. “Their teddy bear (is) their (patient), so the kids can go to the hospital and feel comfortable.”

Ruggieri said last year, a grandmother brought a 50-year-old teddy bear with a detached arm to be sewn on.

“This year, a mom brought in a 35-year-old teddy bear from when she was young,” Ruggieri said. “The arm was completely off, and we sewed it back on for her.”

The MSU pompon squad, the women’s basketball team and women’s basketball head coach, Suzy Merchant, also attended the Teddy Bear Hospital and Picnic.

Dr. Renuka Gera, acting chair of the MSU Department of Pediatrics and Human Development within the College of Human Medicine, said the event is about more than getting children comfortable in medical settings, it’s also teaching children how to stay healthy.

“The purpose of this event is to really teach children about health and health care,” Gera said. “Here, they are not a patient. This is a simulated environment (where) they get to see their beloved teddy bear go through the experience of going to a hospital.”

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