Thanks to a donation from a local family, children awaiting surgery at Charleston Area Medical Center’s Women and Children’s Hospital now have new gadgets to put them at ease before they get to their operating room.
Instead of being wheeled in a hospital bed to their procedures, children can now ride — or “drive” — in miniature, battery-powered Jeeps. The tiny vehicles were given to the hospital by Ben and Stephanie Sullivan.
“Prepping for surgery, it’s a very stressful time for the children, and the parents, too,” Ben Sullivan said. “This offers a little levity, something they can look forward to and be excited about.”
Ben Sullivan, who works as general counsel at Diversified Gas and Oil Corp., said the couple’s son, Liam, was a patient at the hospital when he was 6 years old for a cleft-lip operation.
Stephanie Sullivan said Liam, now 11, was excited when he saw the two Jeeps — one pink and one red — get delivered to their home before the donation.
“He thought they were all for him, and we told him, ‘No, these are for some other special kids,’” Stephanie Sullivan said, laughing. “He has one of his own at home, though, so it worked out fine.”
Stephanie Sullivan said she wished the cars had been there when Liam had his procedure.
“It wouldn’t have reduced the stress, but I think it would have made him feel better,” she said. “It’s scary — for the kids and the parents — and anything that can put a smile on their face before is worth it.”
The cars are operated remotely by either a nurse or a doctor, who can steer it through the hallways as the child sits inside. Friday morning, Adalynn Kinder, 1, whose mother, Brittany, is a nurse at Women and Children’s, sat in the pink Jeep, honking the horn as a nurse drove her through the halls by the surgical center.
The Sullivans said they were inspired to donate the cars after seeing a program at Rady Children’s Hospital, in San Diego. According to USA Today, the cars were donated to that hospital in 2017 by local law enforcement. Doctors told the newspaper that, just a month after having the cars, patients were already reacting positively — and excitedly — about their new modes of transportation.
“When you’re so stressed out and you see them in the car, excited and smiling, that’s worth it,” Stephanie Sullivan said. “Anything to let them be happy and get their mind off worrying about the surgery, even if it’s just for a bit. It feels good for everyone.”