MODESTO, Calif. (KTVU) - For young hospital patients and their parents, getting wheeled into the operating room can be an anxiety-filled, frightening experience. Now a hospital in Modesto is hoping to alleviate some of that stress with a sleek, new ride that helps kids keep their mind on something fun as they go into surgery.
Instead of lying on a gurney, Doctors Medical Center in Modesto is offering young pediatric patients an alternative ride to the OR: a little black Mercedes Benz convertible kids can drive themselves.
The program has proven to be a big success.
"When they find out they can go into the operating room riding in a cool little car, they light up and in most cases, their fears melt away," hospital spokeswoman Krista Deans told KTVU.
And it has served as a beneficial tool not only for the young patients, but for their parents too.
"...when parents see their children put at ease, it puts them at ease as well. It can be traumatizing for a young patient to be peeled away from their parents as they head into surgery. This truly helps everyone involved," Deans said.
The small one-seater has many features of a real car and is loaded with all kinds of bells and whistles: a fully equipped stereo that has a variety of pre-loaded music, an MP3 player, working headlights, back-up lights and dash lights, as well as a door that can open and close and of course safety features-- a seat belt and a horn.
If the kids can't or don't want to drive themselves, the mini convertible can be operated by remote control. The cars are intended for children ages 2 to 7 years old.
The idea to bring the car onto the hospital "lot" came from a registered nurse in pre-op, Kimberly Martinez, who was seeking ways to reduce the stress and anxiety among pediatric patients headed to surgery.
"She did some research and found the benefits of these cars having a lasting impact on young patients," Deans said.
Distracting young patients facing an unknown, scary situation with a fun toy may seem like a simple way to help them with their stress, but it's clear the little luxury car is doing its job.
"Having something to keep their mind off of heading into surgery is a good thing," Deans said.
"Surgery can be a scary thing for anyone, let alone a child. This definitely helps ease their anxiety and stress levels."