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An apple a day

Kimiko Martinez | Mar 29, 2017

It’s not unusual these days to see kids with their gazes glued to an iPad or smartphone screen.

It’s not unusual these days to see kids with their gazes glued to an iPad or smartphone screen. Technology makes for a great distraction on road trips, in restaurants and, as an Alabama Kiwanis club has learned, at the hospital. After Justin Fincher’s encounter with a scared, screaming child, Children’s of Alabama—a pediatric health system—rolled out an iPad program at its Benjamin Russell hospital location to entertain and distract young patients who are going into surgery.

“I’m in the operating room getting things ready for surgery, and I notice this little kid crying on the table,” says Fincher, an integration engineer for surgical services at Children’s of Alabama. “People were trying to calm him down, trying to get his attention off of being separated from mom and dad. Finally, a nurse finds an iPhone, and he’s immediately distracted. And I’m thinking, ‘Why can’t we do this? We have 55-inch screens for the surgeons. Why can’t we play cartoons on those while we’re waiting?’”

Instead of playing cartoons on the operating room monitors, however, the hospital preloaded iPads with games and shows, which patients can enjoy until they fall asleep on the operating table. Fincher remembers an instance in which staff was having a difficult time prepping an autistic patient for surgery.

“They were trying to give him an IV, and he wouldn’t come out from under the covers,” Fincher says. “I walked up with an iPad, and his arm immediately shot out from underneath the sheet.”

The iPad calmed him down and distracted him enough that the nurses could get the patient ready for surgery without resistance. “Our goal with this is to reduce the number of children we have to give medicine to,” Fincher says. “And I know we’ve reduced that number with this program.”

When members of the Homewood-Mountain Brook Kiwanis Club learned about the program and its popularity, they immediately wanted to help. The club’s US$15,740 donation has allowed the program to expand by adding 10 iPads at Children’s South and 10 in the operating rooms of the Lowder Building.

The decision wasn’t difficult, says club president Jamie Brabston. 

“It was a no-brainer. We just loved the idea.”

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