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A storm trooper from the Midwest
Garrison of the 501st Legion
accompanies a young patient to a
procedure at the Ann & Robert H.
Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago.

Overcoming the force of fear in pediatric imaging

by Lisa Chamoff , Contributing Reporter
The young girl wouldn’t stop crying.

At 3 years old, she didn’t know exactly what was about to happen. A nurse at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago was taking her to have a PICC line removed, but she knew that she was scared and did not want to go.

The girl’s mother offered a suggestion that might baffle a devoted Star Wars fan, asking her daughter if she would like a storm trooper — a soldier of the Galactic Empire and First Order and normally considered one of the “bad guys” in the George Lucas-created franchise — to accompany her to the procedure.
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“She took him by the hand and walked to the room,” recalls Ted Ruler, a field service engineer for GE Healthcare, who was at the facility in 2015 with the 501st Legion, a fan organization dedicated to recreating and wearing the costumes of the villains of the Star Wars films to promotional and charitable events, and when they visit sick kids.

To children stuck in hospitals, the troopers, as they call themselves, are knights in glossy armor, cheering up the young patients who face medical treatments that seem just as scary as finding your hero encased in Carbonite.

Helping young patients overcome their fears of scary imaging exams, and avoiding risky sedation or general anesthesia to keep them still during the procedures, has become a priority at many facilities.

This can be as simple as having staff on hand to help children prepare for the exams to as elaborate as turning a CT scanner into a pirate ship.

Personal touch
The Children’s Hospital of Illinois, located on the campus of OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria, Ill., employs a staff member who works with children and their parents to make procedures seem less frightening.

“I get the toys out and give them five to 10 minutes to warm up to the room,” explains Julie Baer, a child life specialist at the Children’s Hospital of Illinois. “I give them choices for how to get up on the table. Do they want mom?”

The idea is to build trust before explaining what the exam entails.

"Once kids understand, that fear goes away," says Dr. Eric Bugaieski, a pediatric radiologist at the Children's Hospital of Illinois. He uses the Aplio i800 ultrasound system from Canon Medical Systems and makes it a habit to always explain what is about to happen prior to conducting the exam.

Some companies and facilities have taken a more multimedia approach to pediatric imaging preparation.

A few years ago, Siemens Healthineers collaborated with comic book company Marvel and Weill Cornell Imaging at NewYork-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medical College on the MRI Heroes Kit. Hospitals receive multiple kits that include a cape, MR-safe Captain America and Iron Man plush toys, a mini model of a Siemens MRI scanner and a comic book with a story line that has Captain America getting an MRI after he hurts his shoulder in a battle.
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