Samaritan receives Medi Teddy® donation for pediatric patients from former Watertown woman | Health Matters
WATER CITY — A hospital stay can be nerve-wracking for even the most experienced patients, let alone children. In an effort to improve the lives of local children, the Samaritan Medical Center Foundation recently received a donation of 100 Medi Teddy® IV bag covers from Susan “Sue” Powers Washburn, formerly of Watertown.
Sue held a fundraiser for her 70th birthday and bought the bears with the money raised. The Medi Teddys have been donated for use in child-oriented areas of the hospital, including the emergency department, pediatric ward, and surgical services.
“If you bring that in and hang it up or introduce the kid to the Medi Teddy, their eyes just light up,” says Laurie L. Fegley, director of the Car Freshener Center for Women and Children. “It’s very reassuring for them and makes the scary part of the hospital a little less scary, and they get to take it home, so it’s kind of a win-win situation. It is a huge benefit for our little ones, we are very grateful.”
She noted that many of the center’s small patients have benefited from the Medi Teddy and if more are donated, she thinks the hospital will look into buying more for the children.
The Medi Teddy’s are made by Ella K. Casano of Connecticut. When she was only 7 years old, Ella was diagnosed with idiopathic thrombocytopenia purpura, or ITP, which means her body is destroying the platelets in her blood. The platelet count for the average person is generally between 150,000 and 450,000 platelets per microliter of circulating blood. For people with ITP, they often have a platelet count below 20,000. In Ella’s case, the platelet count goes well below 10,000. Many kids outgrow it within a few months, but for Ella, now 15, it never went away, making her a rare case.
Every eight weeks, she spends the day in an outpatient clinic to receive an IVIG drip, a drug that helps increase the number of platelets in her body. After that, she has to be on steroids for a week to minimize the side effects of the IVIG.
With the support of her family, Ella made her first Medi Teddy prototype when she was in fifth grade, and a few years later, in the summer of 2019, when she was 13 years old, production and first shipments followed.
“From my own experience of getting infusions, I know how scary and intimidating the look of all medical equipment can look, especially for pediatric IV patients, and that struck me, especially on my first few infusions,” said Ella on the creation of Medi Teddy. “I just didn’t want other kids to go through the experiences I had.”
Medi Teddy hides the bag of IV fluid, medication or blood hanging from the IV pole, which can be scary for the child who has it, and instead provides a fun and friendly face for the child to look at. The bears come in both plush and plastic versions. The cleverly designed teddy bear covers the IV bag while still allowing medical personnel to see the medication or blood products inside it thanks to a mesh back.
Ella’s mother, Meghan “Meg” M. Casano, BSN, MA, of IV Comfort Solutions, the makers of Medi Teddy®, said the social worker at the hospital Ella goes to for infusions told her that sometimes parents are afraid too. for the medicine and bags of blood, so they too are comforted by Medi Teddy.
Meg’s parents, Jim and Signe McGowan, live in Henderson Harbor, so Ella has spent at least a week or two in Henderson Harbor every summer since she was a baby. Meg grew up in Manlius, but her family always spent summers in Henderson Harbor.
“From the fact that I go there every summer, I’m thrilled that we found a way to give back to that community,” Ella said.
Although she no longer lives in Watertown, but spends time in Boise, Idaho with family, Sue still has a home in Henderson Harbor and is friends with Ella’s grandparents.
A supporter of Ella, who she has known since she was young from the summers in the harbor, and her efforts with Medi Teddy, and was born in the House of the Good Samaritan before it became Samaritan Medical Center, when her birthday in Sue was February decided to start a fundraiser on Facebook to get Medi Teddy to Watertown.
“I was just blown away by my friends and family who contributed. We were able to raise a lot more money than I expected,” she said. “We raised just over $2,000 in a few hours. I was just blown away by the generosity of people. People who knew me as a kid, who saw it on Facebook, people I haven’t seen in seventy years, have donated, so that was really cool about it.”
At the last count, Meg said there were more than 8,000 Medi Teddys in use by children in 23 countries. Thanks to Sue and her donation, Samaritan is in the top five receiving hospitals, which she says just shows what one person in their community can do.
Individual families can request a Medi Teddy for their child for free at https://www.medi-teddy.org/. As a 501(c)3 nonprofit, Medi Teddy relies on donations to help with those individual gifts and then for hospitals that want bulk orders, it relies on people like Sue to help with some sort of fundraising, or sometimes hospitals buy them outright from retail at https://ivcomfortsolutions.com/.
“I think we all, especially with the pandemic and even before that, we feel helpless about a lot of things, but then you realize that one person can do so much, so for me to just do a simple ‘throw it out’ – there, ‘I didn’t do much,’ said Sue. “I just offered the opportunity and people want to help, people want to contribute what they can, especially if it’s children who are affected. It was just the ability to do something that has a lasting impact.”
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