Kiwanis club deploys 24 dolls to aid patients at Mercy Regional

By Corene Brisendine

Manhattan Kiwanis Club rebooted an initiative to provide comfort dolls to children at Mercy Regional Health Center Monday as part of an international Kiwanis program.

The dolls are made by Kiwanis members out of a soft material to provide a comfort to children in the hospital and give doctors and nurses a way to explain to small children what they are doing.

“We are going to make a bunch of them,” said Keith Rutlin, Kiwanis member in charge of the dolls. “We cut them out, stuff them and sew them up.”

Rutlin said club members made and donated 24 dolls to the hospital Monday and plan to keep the hospital supplied.

Sara Glover, nurse and supervisor for medical and pediatrics unit, said the hospital has had the dolls for as long as she has been there, about five years. She said the hospital was down to only a couple of dolls before Rutlin brought more on Monday.

She said it is at each nurse’s discretion whether to give a child one of the dolls. She said that most of the children they see are in and out of the hospital pretty quickly, so those patients have less need for the dolls.

Most nurses give them to “maybe kids who are chronically ill or going to be in for a couple of days, the more anxious kids,” Glover said. Usually it’s the younger patients who get them, she said.

The dolls come without clothing and have no facial features. Children get water-soluble markers to draw on the dolls. Rutlin said the kids can draw a face reflecting how they feel, use the doll to show the doctor or nurse where it hurts, even draw the injury on the doll. Then members of the medical team can use the doll to demonstrate the procedure they will be doing, like suturing a cut or starting an IV. He said the dolls are also great for curbing boredom for small children who cannot run and play while in the hospital. The dolls help children keep their hands busy and keep their minds off what is going on around them. When the children are released, the dolls go home with them.

Glover said on average, nurses give out about two dolls a month.

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