12:18 PM

Providing comfort to small patients, one bear at a time


The doctor’s office can be a scary place for a child. The intimidating machines, the extra attention from doctors and nurses and the fear of the unknown can all be incredibly overwhelming, especially for the first time. While there is no one way to keep a pediatric patient from being scared, there are ways to make them feel more comfortable.

Back in 2017, staff at Rocky Mountain Heart & Lung contacted the Kalispell Regional Healthcare (KRH) Foundation about supplying teddy bears for their pediatric patients during echocardiograms. Echocardiograms are non-invasive ultrasound imaging tests used to view the heart in motion. While it’s a painless procedure, the situation often leaves children nervous or afraid. The purpose of the teddy bears was to help ease the anxiety of children during their visits by pairing them up with a stuffed friend. The Foundation had already been supplying teddy bears to both Kalispell Regional Medical Center and the HealthCenter and was happy to supply Rocky Mountain Heart & Lung’s pediatric patients with bears as well.

According to Debbie Allen, practice specialist at Rocky Mountain Heart & Lung, the teddy bears have had a tremendous impact. “Some of the kids who come in here are downright frightened, they don’t know what’s going on, they don’t know that it’s not going to hurt,” says Allen. “To be able to give them that bear makes all the difference. It provides them with a sense of comfort.”

Wanting to show their appreciation to the KRH Foundation for supplying them with teddy bears, staff at Rocky Mountain Heart & Lung decided to pool together some cash, totaling $56, to donate back to the pediatric fund. “We just wanted to be able to pay it back,” says Allen. “It’s a great thing for the children who come in here and we all really appreciate it.”

A year later in November 2018, Allen took the teddy bear fundraiser one step further. She created a colorful donation box and placed it at the front desk with a sign to remind staff to donate if they could. However, patients began to notice it as well. “It turned out they were thrilled to donate to the Teddy Bear Fund as well,” says Allen. “Many of them know firsthand how meaningful those bears are.” Thanks to the generosity of both staff and patients at Rocky Mountain Heart & Lung, Allen was able to donate $200 to the Foundation’s pediatric fund last month.

“It just goes to show the creativity and dedication of the staff at Rocky Mountain Heart & Lung,” says Allison Meilicke, director of the Ambassador Program at the KRH Foundation. “They clearly appreciate it and we certainly appreciate their gesture of philanthropy giving back to the pediatric fund.”

Allen is thankful for the opportunity to help patients in their time of need. She realizes that her role as a greeter allows her to have an altering effect on the patients who are coming in. “People are obviously here when they’re not feeling well,” continues Allen, “But my goal is to make them come out happier than they were when they came in.” Whether that be through positivity, patience or a stuffed teddy bear, Allen just wants to be able to bring a ray of sunshine into the lives of those around her.

Rocky Mountain Heart & Lung conducted 458 pediatric echocardiograms last year. Through February of 2019, they’ve already conducted 102 more. For more information about their services, visit their pediatric cardiology page.