BALTIMORE — Hospital hallways are often hectic places where people and equipment are racing from room to room, and for those traversing the corridors of the Herman & Walter Samuelson Children’s Hospital at Sinai, a new form of traffic may have to be dodged as well.
Friday morning, a handful of the LifeBridge Health facility’s young patients waited eagerly for the arrival of a fleet of wagons and pedal-powered cars retrofitted with hitches that allow the child-sized vehicles to tow IV units. That ability allows patients to freely roam the pediatric facility with the necessary devices and vital fluids trailing behind.
“It really helps them to be independent, to be able to go through the floor here on the ward,” said Kimberly Blackson, whose granddaughter comes to Sinai for treatment of Sickle Cell disease. “She has the IV pole attached to her car, and she has named her IV pole “Iveena” because we had to teach her at a young age that that IV pole has to go with her all the times, and for them not to have to hold it and carry it along, the cars are actually great.”
Familiar with the mobility restraints imposed on his hospital’s smaller patients, President and CEO of Lifebridge Health Neil Meltzer read an article mentioning a group that donates retrofitted cars and wagons with the IV hitch, allowing more mobility. Meltzer is already a believer in creating the best atmosphere for his patients as part of their overall treatment.
“So much of the healing process is feeling happy and feeling good about the environment, and this allows them to be a little more independent and have a lot more fun,” said Meltzer. “We believe that the environment does make a significant difference in the ability to heal and how someone else feels about the healing process.”
The Children’s Hospital already has nurses stations that change color, lights that blink and twinkle like stars in the sky, telephones that change colors, and a large, colorful, oceanic-themed statue created by a patient who used to work for Disney.
“It was all designed to create a sense of happiness for the children that are there,” Meltzer said.
Having kids zipping around the hall in cars seemed to fit right in, so Meltzer connected with the organization Wy’s Rides. Started by husband and wife Bryan and Christine Rex when their son Wyatt was battling pediatric cancer at Johns Hopkins Hospital, the organization has provided their fun and freedom rendering vehicles to four area hospitals so far. With little “Wy” being a car enthusiast, sharing the utility and fun the cars provide quickly gained momentum.
“As a thank you to Johns Hopkins we made five wagons for them, and ended up giving them a fleet of 20 that included pedal cars and variations of wagons,” said Christine Rex. “It’s kind of grown from there.”
The organization is funded completely by grassroots efforts and two corporate partners, Radio Flyer and Porsche of Annapolis, who help Wy’s Rides get their vehicles at discounted rates. Anyone interested in finding out more or donating can do so through the group’s website.
Now cancer free, the ease and joy that Wyatt had with those first few cars at Johns Hopkins can now be shared with many more children looking for those fun moments where they can play like any other kid.
“The beauty of our hitch is that it only takes one caretaker to get out, or in the case of the cars, they can take themselves out,” Rex said, hoping the new transportation provides relief from the isolation kids often feel as they travel about the ward and play. “That’s the joy of being a kid.”
Though Rex is a little nervous about those navigating the hospital halls now.
“We are definitely putting some incompetent drivers on the road,” Rex said. “Sorry all doctors that work at [children’s] hospitals.”