At Penn State Children’s Hospital in Hershey, kids on the surgical floor see a lot of doctors and nurses.
But they’ll also get a visit from Drew Heying.
Heying is a child life specialist and his goal is to connect with the patient before and sometimes after the operating room.
“A lot of time, I’ll walk into a room and say, ‘hey, what are you here for,” Heying said. “They’ll look at their parent, and I don’t really care what the parent knows. I want to know what the kid knows!”
Heying is there to answer questions such as “is it going to hurt” and “why are we doing this?”
He’s also there to calm fears and hopefully have a little fun. He helps the kids get their IV lines and create their own surgical masks, which in turn makes the masks far less frightening when it comes time for the procedure.
“I’ll bring in the mask and we’ll play with it,” Heying said. “I have probably way more Chapstick than you could ever imagine. We’ll put a flavor on the inside so it’s a little more fun. We’ll put some stickers on the outside.”‘
Sometimes Heying is there simply to be a friend.
“I will play Barbies,” he said. “Unfortunately, I know probably more princess facts and Barbie facts than most grown men without daughters.”
When Heying spent time with 15-year-old Caia Moran before her cranial reconstruction, he took away not only her anxiety but her mother’s as well.
“When Drew came in, there was laughing, smiles,” mother Bobby Jo Moran said. “He just took everybody’s mind off of it. He didn’t just help the patient, he helped the rest of us as well.”
“These kids are going to be here no matter what, right?” Heying said. “Nothing is going to stop kids from breaking their arms or having appendicitis or needing to get their tonsils out. But if we can be there and be a positive presence and just kind of make it more fun, that’s what we’re going to do. We’ll be a team and we’ll get through this together.”
All of the toys, games and even Chapstick Heying uses at Penn State Children’s Hospital are donated. If you’d like to help, visit childrens.pennstatehealth.org.